Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Power to the People: Bill of Rights Art

U.S. Government

K20 Center, Aimee Myers, Kim Pennington | Published: November 4th, 2022 by K20 Center


This lesson focuses on multi-modal literacy as a follow-up to lessons over the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Students should already have a basic understanding of the Bill of Rights. The lesson introduces students to protest art as seen in the work of Juane Quick-to-see Smith, an internationally known contemporary Native American artist.

Essential Question(s)

What role do artists have in bringing about social and political change? 



Students look at recent street art and through a Commit and Toss strategy as well as discuss the use of art to shape political beliefs and raise awareness.


Students explore the work of a Native American artist to gain understanding of protest art and the elements and principles of art in general.


Students review the Bill of Rights and use their knowledge of the Bill of Rights to analyze freedoms being expressed in the art of Juane Quick-To-See and other protest art pieces.


Students discuss the freedoms from the Bill of Rights that are important to them.


Students use a rubric to evaluate their peers' work to assess for understanding and ability to convey their message.


  • Doc 1-Street Art

  • Doc 2-Protest Art (student handout)

  • Doc 3-Principles of Art (student handout)

  • Doc 4-Quick-to-See Smith 's Art for Analysis

  • Doc 5-Bill of Rights summary (student handout)

  • Doc 6-Bill of Rights Art Examples

  • Doc 7-Art Rubric


On a projector or overhead, show "Doc 1-Street Art." This art was a visual protest posted in 2004 by the street artist Meek. In the early 2000s, street artists like Meek and Banksy began using graffiti to raise awareness about social issues and protest political agendas.

Ask students the following questions: What is the artist asking of the viewer? Do you think viewing street art would influence your political beliefs or raise your awareness of social issues?

Let students have a moment or two in silence to contemplate what the artist is asking of the viewer.

Students will participate in a Commit and Toss activity to share their thoughts.

  • Give students a few minutes to write a quick response on paper. This should be about 1-3 sentences and should only take about 2 minutes. Ask them to leave their name off the paper because they will offer their thoughts anonymously.

  • Once students have written their thoughts on the paper, ask them to crumple the paper into a ball.

  • The paper balls can be tossed into a basket, box, or a pile on the floor.

  • Gently toss the papers back out to students. Ask them to open their paper balls to read them. Students should make sure they did not receive their own paper.

  • Ask students to get into groups of four or five, depending on the size of your class.

  • Give students time to share the responses on their pieces of paper with their group.

  • Come back together as a class and ask a few students to share some of the best responses discussed in their small groups.


Give students "Doc 2-Protest Art" (located under Attachments), and have them read the handout silently. After 2 minutes, ask them if Meek's graffiti art from the Commit and Toss activity meets the standard of protest art. You may wish to post the Meek art photo on the projector again. Ask students to think about Meek's art as you share the main points of protest art. Does Meek's art meet these criteria?

  • Protest art relies on people's understanding of the symbols used in the art (peace sign, raised fist, dove, etc.).

  • Protest art requires a cause or an issue.

  • Protest art uses an easily accessible medium (not always art galleries).

  • Protest art is aimed at the largest possible audience to get the message out.

Next, give students "Doc 3-Principles of Art." Go over the definitions for emphasis, visual texture, and overlap. Inform them that this will be their guide for evaluating protest art and that it will also be useful in creating their own protest art.

Explain to students that they will now analyze the protest art of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Ask students to keep in mind that you are discussing protest art. Then, ask students what they might expect to see in Quick-to-See Smith's artwork concerning Native Americans?

Points to share with the students about Quick-to-See Smith's bio include:

  • She is Native-American, a member of the Flathead Nation.

  • She dealt with discrimination, because of her ethnicity, and poverty.

  • She lived on a reservation and, at times, in foster homes.

  • She wanted to convey the hardships, the conflict between two cultures, and the lost culture of Native Americans in her artwork.

"Doc 4-Quick-to-See Smith 's Art for Analysis" features three different pieces of Quick-to-See Smith's art. Pass out only one piece of artwork to each student. Ask students to form a group of four with students who received the same piece of art. Ask students to discuss the following questions: What social message was the artist sending with this art? Is the message positive or negative? How do you know?

Allow about 7-10 minutes for students to write down points about their discussion of the artwork. Show each piece of art, one by one, on the projector. Have groups share their impressions of the art and point out details to explain their rationale. After all three artworks have been discussed by the groups; ask the class if there is a central theme to Quick-to-See Smith's art.


The next part of this lesson moves to the Bill of Rights and applies the principles of protest art to our rights as citizens. Remind students that the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution in 1791 as written guarantees of the rights and freedoms of every citizen. If students do not remember or need a review, you may wish to pass out "Doc 5-Bill of Rights Summary," which is a summary of the Bill of Rights. Also, pass out "Doc 6-Bill of Rights Art Examples." Ask students to return to their student groups. Now, using the Bill of Rights summary and the Bill of Rights art examples, they are to determine which one of the first 10 Amendments the art is representing.

The Bill of Rights art examples represent three different forms of protest art:

(1) "The Son of Man" is by the surrealist René Magritte. Often surrealist artists conveyed a social or political message in their work. Students can interpret this painting as the subject possibly being denied his First Amendment rights, the right to free speech, since the man is hindered by the apple. Or perhaps, the painting represents the Fifth Amendment. If the man cannot speak due to the apple, he cannot perjure himself (self-incrimination).

(2) The second piece is protest art from Banksy that shows a little girl patting down a soldier. It could be interpreted as related to the Fourth Amendment, protesting against too much search and seizure.

(3) The third piece of protest art is a mural in Memphis, Tennessee. This piece could represent the First Amendment's right to assembly. The signs could also be interpreted as the right to free speech provided for in the First Amendment).

All art examples are open to interpretation so allow for a variety of responses if you believe they are reasonable.


Have students look again at the "Doc 5-Bill of Rights Summary." Have them choose one of the 10 Bill of Rights that they feel strongly about, either positively or negatively. Students may think that, as citizens, their "freedom of speech" is violated on a regular basis, or they may support owning guns or not support owning guns, which deals with the Second Amendment.

After some discussion, choose one of the students' ideas and ask, "What image would you use to symbolize that freedom?" Try to be fairly accepting of whatever ideas they come up with for the various freedoms or amendments. Ask questions of students to clarify their thoughts, always asking them to explain how their image best expresses the freedom they chose. You can extend the discussion to include some of the elements or principles of art from the handout ("Doc 3-Principles of Art") given to students earlier. Ask them what colors, textures, or shapes would also be representative of their ideas. Ask them how they could group ideas together through the artistic use of overlapping, like the artwork of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Have students refer back to "Doc 2-Protest Art" and review the four areas of emphasis. Tell them that they have accomplished the first task, but now they need to choose their own issue to protest or support. Have them choose an issue from the Bill of Rights and consider a visual representation for it. Again, referring back to "Doc 2-Protest Art" and "Doc 3-Principles of Art," encourage students to not only create something that has a visual protest message about a freedom but that also uses principles of art.

Distribute "Doc 7-Art Rubric" and allow students to review it. Inform them that their peers will evaluate their art. Their art should be creative but also clearly meet all the criteria on the rubric.


On the day the artwork is completed, distribute the Art Rubric that is provided in the attachments of this lesson. This rubric serves as a peer evaluation tool. Have students examine the work of their peers and offer feedback to the student artist. The last portion of the lesson required each student to represent the amendment he or she chose visually, but this portion deepens evaluation by asking the students to examine the work of their peers in relationship to both art and the Bill of Rights.