Field Guide To Federalism

What’s the role of the government? These days, we constantly hear arguments about how big or small the government should be. And with the concept of federalism popping up a lot in the US History Regents exam, Academy of Urban Planning and Engineering teacher Jorge Sandoval asked CUP to create a curriculum that would make it less abstract.

Jorge Sandoval, his 9th grade students, CUP, and CUP teaching artist Stephen Fiehn set out to experience what federalism looks like first-hand. The group started small by looking for signs of the government in their wallets. Then, they took to the streets looking for evidence of city, state, and federal government involvement in Bushwick. And finally, they interviewed a bodeguero, a liquor store owner, a bank manager, and an Army recruiter to understand the role of the government in local businesses and institutions.

To share their findings, they created a booklet called “Field Guide to Federalism”: it’s both a primer for US History students preparing to take their exams and a handy guide for anyone interested in doing this kind of investigation in their own school or neighborhood. In February of 2012, the students presented their work and led federalism-related design activities for more than 60 other students studying for the Regents exam. The booklet will continue to be used in US History classrooms at the Academy of Urban Planning and Engineering.

What People are Saying

“I’m so glad CUP did a project with our class. I would have never thought of taking my students out to the community to learn about federalism until this project. I’m going to do this project again with my class next year.” - Jorge Sandoval, US History Teacher

CUP made abstract concepts about our society very digestible and much more relevant for our students.” – Bianca Briggs, Co-Teacher

“I learned that the government is all around us in our neighborhood. I never realized this until we went out ourselves and did our own little trips.” – Najee Santos

“My thoughts about the government changed because I thought they didn’t care about us, but now I know that there are rules that protect us people.” – Blanca Cruz

Resources & Links

The Academy of Urban Planning and Engineering (AUPE) is a public school in Bushwick with an urban planning theme-based curriculum.

Funding Support

This project was made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and support from the Bay and Paul Foundations and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Special Thanks

Orbim Guilamo (U.S. Army Ridgewood Recruiting Station), Ian Harbajan (Citibank),  R.H. Kazmi (Ralph Prescriptions), Danny (Food Store Corp.), Franja Liquors, John (Wyckoff Food Bazaar), and Cassandra Brinen & Stephen Miller.


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Stephen Fiehn
  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • Project Support
    • Christine Gaspar 
    • Sam Holleran
    • Mark Torrey
  • The Academy of Urban Planning and Engineering
  • Students
  • Blanca Cruz 
  • Michael Flores 
  • Christian Fuentes
  • Samantha Izquierdo
  • Yordy Ortega 
  • Melika Price 
  • Daysy Quiroz 
  • Najee Santos  
  • Noelia Santos 
  • Isa Verdes
  • Princess Bordes 
  • Trisha Cotta 
  • Luis Zeron

  • Classroom Teacher
  • Jorge Sandoval

  • Co-Teacher
  • Bianca Briggs

  • Project Coordinator
  • Josh Lapidus


Jennifer Korff

Stephen Fiehn