State House Express
Give Students a Front-Row Seat to Democracy-Climb Aboard the State House Express.
This small grants program provides awards of $500 to eligible teachers of government, civics, history, and other social studies classes in grades 4 through 12. The grants are designed to help pay for bus rental costs to take classes on field trips to the State House in Trenton for special guided tours and first-hand examination of the legislature’s role in our system of representative democracy.
The State House Express program is funded by the New Jersey Legislature and is administered by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in collaboration with the Office of Legislative Services at the State House in Trenton.
Visiting the State House
The special tours developed by the Office of Legislative Services for Eagleton’s State House Express help all students, especially those in government, civics and history courses, learn about the lawmaking process. The tour focuses on the legislature as an arena where different ideas are deliberated and negotiated and where settlements are reached.
The goal of the tour is to teach students about the legislature’s role in representative democracy and encourage civic participation in the American political system. On a typical tour students will see the General Assembly and Senate caucus room. Students may also participate in a “make-a-law” exercise where they will learn about the roles of discussion, negotiation, compromise and voting in the enactment of legislation. They may also engage with several multimedia exhibits located in the State House Welcome Center, time permitting. Each teacher will be asked to fill out an evaluation form at the conclusion of the tour.
- Please note: The State House is a working office building subject to periodic unannounced room closings, so tour routes may be altered. While room closings are more likely to occur on Mondays and Thursdays when the legislature is in session, the building is often more active and vibrant on those days.
Teachers may submit applications for the 2019-20 program to Eagleton at any time during the academic year. Awards are made on a rolling basis, with decisions made as soon as the applications are received. Application for 2019-2020 year will be available by end of August 2019.
Eligibility criteria are as follows:
- Awards are designated for students in grades 4 through 12.
- Classes visiting the State House must consist of a minimum of 25 students.
- All tours must be scheduled and completed during the 2019-2020 academic year (September 2019-June 2020).
- All teachers of students in grades 6-12 in public and private schools are encouraged to apply, including those who have received awards in the past. Individual teachers are eligible each year. In special circumstances, separate grants may be awarded to different teachers in the same school.
- Other school groups or organizations who do not meet the exact criteria specified above may also apply and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Scheduling the State House Tour
Teachers who receive grant awards contact the Tour Office at the Office of Legislative Services in Trenton to schedule their class tours. The office can be reached at (609) 847-3150.
It is assumed the group has permission of school and/or district authorities to participate in the trip.
When contacting the Tour Office, teachers must specify that they are a State House Express grant recipient. The tour program runs about two hours but may be shortened on request. Tours are subject to availability and limited to fifty people per tour (including chaperones). The Tour Office will notify the school district’s legislators of the scheduled visit but it is the teacher/school’s responsibility to contact the Legislator to request a meeting or to make special arrangements.
The Governor and Legislators do not routinely meet with tour groups unless arrangements are made by the school in advance.
For more information, contact:
Eagleton Institute of Politics
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
191 Ryders Lane
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
The “Make-A-Law!” Simulation
Below you will find a number of resources that can help in both preparation and review for your visit.
State House Resources
The NJ State House offers a number of materials that will be helpful for your visit. Listed below are a few resources from their website that teachers have found helpful in the past. Please visit the State House website directly to access all available kid resources and teacher resources.
Recommended for grades 4-8
Listed below includes resources from the New Jersey State House Website that are recommended for students in grades 4-8.
- A Student’s Guide to the Legislative Process
A lively and simplified discussion of New Jersey’s legislative process. This provides the organization of NJ’s government, qualifications for legislative service, legislative districts, and citizen involvement also are addressed
- New Jersey State House Activity Book
A resource created and prepared by the NJ State House that can be used for either pre- or post- visit activities.
- New Jersey State Symbols
Interactive website that provides descriptions for all of NJ’s state symbols.
Recommended for grades 9-12
Listed below includes resources from the New Jersey State House Website that are recommended for students in grades 9-12.
- Glossary of Legislative Terms
Definitions of terms related to the legislative environment
- Past Times and Trivia
Packet that allows high school students to test their knowledge of NJ’s legislative process, people, places, and events that have shaped our state’s heritage.
- The Legislative Process in NJ
A thorough description of how new laws are enacted and an easy reference flow chart
Listed below are additional websites that can assist you with your visit.
American Government and the Legislative Process
Visit this page to explore various resources such as interactive websites, primary sources, sample lesson plans, and videos.
Visit this page to access resources on architecture of historical sites such as virtual tours, videos, photos, interactive websites, and more.
Visit this page to explore information on NJ Elected Officials such as websites and videos.
New Jersey History
Visit this page to access various resources that allow students to learn about New Jersey history.