We the People: Constitution and Citizenship Day

Article excerpt

IN 2004, Congress passed a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 establishing a day to commemorate the Sept. 17, 1787, signing of the Constitution. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., who inserted this mandate into the bill, felt this was a way to educate Americans about history. President George W. Bush signed it into law on Dec. 8, 2004. Designated as Constitution and Citizenship Day, schools receiving federal money are required to hold an educational program about the U.S. Constitution each year. Schools may choose what kind of program to hold. This year, Constitution Day will be held Friday, Sept. 16, since Sept. 17 falls on a Saturday.

STARTING POINTS

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

A caricature of Ben Franklin leads learners of all ages in finding information about the Constitution and the U.S. government. Primary grade students learn of the three branches of government. Intermediate grades find information on the separation of power, checks and balances, and the Articles of Confederation. Middle school students learn about making laws, national versus state government, the election process, and historic documents. Detailed information on federalism, powers of national and state governments, and how laws are made are written for grades 9-12. High school students are invited to engage in a national debate topic. Debate topics for the past 6 years are included.

Charters of Freedom: The Constitution

Which state did not send any delegates to the Constitutional Convention? Who insisted that the Bill of Rights be adopted? Who gave the most speeches? Begin your research at the National Archives, where you can view original documents, read transcriptions, and gather biographical information about the founding fathers who attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. High-resolution images of documents can be downloaded for printing and observation, while changes in the U.S. Constitution are indicated with links to the current verbiage or amendment. In addition, there is an article about the restoration of the historic murals found in the rotunda of the National Archives. Teachers will want to use this site for preparing lessons.

Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention Broadsides

In a special presentation from the Constitutional Convention Broadsides collection, students will learn about the process by which the constitution was drafted and revised.

From the abandonment of the Articles of Confederation to the penning of a final version of the U.S. Constitution, students will recognize that it was no easy task to ratify this new form of government. Drafts were kept secret, amendments were presented, and fierce debates ensued. This compelling information is highlighted with documents, images, and short biographical sketches. Click on "Classroom Connections" to view suggestions on how this collection might fit into a lesson on persuasive writing or how it could be used to help create a broadside. A wealth of search strategies will guide the high school student deeper into critically thinking about the impact broadsides had on the population during that time period. Rounding out the presentation is a timeline called America during the Age of the Revolution. The Library of Congress provides a rich source for primary sources from broadsides to period illustrations that will definitely enhance the study of the Constitution. One middle school teacher used illustrations from this and other collections to teach about it in her classroom. In addition, she created a Who Signed the Constitution quiz using an interactive PowerPoint slide show. She was amazed at how engaged her students were when they recognized the individuals they had researched. This teacher had transformed a dry topic, as she described it, into living history with just a few illustrations.

National Constitution Center

Wow! Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline is a phenomenal presentation spanning years of history. …