Help Kids Understand Our State Government


Citizenship is both a privilege and a duty in a democratic society—and it’s a thread that connects all Americans. It’s important for Tennessee children to understand the government and history of their state so they’re on track to become active citizens.

It’s never too early to encourage your child to learn about the responsibilities and rewards of being a citizen in Tennessee.

How Your Government Works

Understanding how the government works is essential to being an engaged citizen.

The Tennessee Constitution divides the powers of state government into three branches: the legislative, the executive and the judicial. The state constitution places the “Supreme Executive Power” of the state with the governor.

Executive branch: The governor and the governor’s executive branch agencies “execute” or administer laws, mandates, and new programs created by the General Assembly.

Legislative branch: The Tennessee legislative branch of government consists of a bicameral General Assembly (a type of legislature with two branches or chambers), with a Senate and House of Representatives. The General Assembly’s main function is to make laws. The Legislature proposes laws, enacts laws, provides a forum for debate on issues and secures financing for the operation of state government.

Judicial branch: The judicial branch serves as a check on the powers of both the legislative and executive branches. With the power of judicial review, the courts may rule on the constitutionality of legislation passed by the General Assembly and consider the legality of policies and regulations. The courts also consider whether the General Assembly’s policies and regulations are legal.

Ways to Get Involved

Are you a student interested in learning about civics and government? Here are some organizations with civic engagement programs.

Learn About Tennessee’s History

Families have a vast array of opportunities to discover the rich history and heritage of Tennessee. Here are some historical and cultural sites highlighted on

Remarkable Tennesseans: Tennessee is a cradle of courage and creativity, known for contributions to arts, science and world events. Learn about pioneers and explorers, statesmen and presidents, and innovators in countless fields, including the people who changed American music.

Heritage & Culture: The state’s heritage is a mix of histories and cultures, language and music, mountains and plains, art and industry, city and countryside. Learn about the struggles and triumphs of Native American and African-American ancestors. Explore the history of your own family.

Landmarks & Historic Places: Historic landmarks throughout the state attest to the brave actions of men and women who saw a chance to change their world for the better, to express themselves in a new way, or to claim a place for future generations.

Historic Roads & Trails: There is no better way to experience Tennessee’s traditional arts and crafts, musical roots and historical sights than by exploring a trail. Among the options are the Avery Trace Trail, the Cherokee Heritage Trail and Parker’s Crossroads Driving Trail.

Heritage Towns: The state’s oldest towns are rich with not only history but also variety. Explore the historic districts, head for the town square or visit some of the local artisans in heritage towns.

Military History: Tennessee has been at the forefront of American military history. Learn about the Overmountain Men and their stunning victory against Cornwallis’ forces in the Revolutionary War, to crucial Civil War battles, to the scientific advances of World War II.

More Historical Resources

The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) kids portal, TEL4U, offers a State History page.

In the Suffrage Exhibit, learn how Tennessee played a pivotal role in gaining women the right to vote.

Find Primary Sources on history at the Tennessee Education Outreach Department.

Find Civil Rights items on Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA).

Additional Resources

The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) offers a wealth of civics resources on both Tennessee and the national level. Here are some:

The Tennessee State Library & Archives blog is a helpful tool parents can share with children.