First page of the Constitution of the United States of America, image from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
On September 17, 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia convention met at Independence Hall to sign the document they had labored all summer to produce, to send it to the Continental Congress to be sent to the states for ratification. Ultimately 39 of the delegates would sign it.
We celebrate Constitution Day annually on September 17 in honor of this event (September 18 this year, because the 17th is a Sunday).
Texas requires all students to get a dose of Constitution (and Declaration of Independence) in social studies classes, each year — Freedom Week*. For that matter, there is a federal requirement, too (it would be fun to analyze whether such a requirement runs afoul of the law that requires the federal government to stay out of curricula, sometime). Where to find materials?
The Bill of Rights Institute has wonderful stuff — posters, videos, lesson plans. Much of what a teacher needs for Constitution Day is available for free on their website page for Constitution Day. I had the great good fortune to attend a week-long institute put together by this group, at Mt. Vernon, Virginia. Their scholarship is top notch; their materials are well researched, keyed well to the various age groups, and packaged to make their use easy. The Bill of Rights on Demand feature is good for quick lesson plans, too.
Here is one of my favorite sources: Prof. Gordon Lloyd of Pepperdine University created an interactive version of Howard Chandler Christy’s famous painting of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. If you can project from your computer, you can show students the history — roll your mouse across the painting, and you get the name of the delegate with a link to get more history on that man.
The National Archives has lesson plans for Constitution Day, to get students to study and understand the Constitution and other contemporary documents directly.
This site, Constitution Day, makes me nervous. Yes, they have Colin Powell leading the nation in the Preamble this year — but they also highlight former Alabama Judge Roy Moore, who has little understanding or respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, in my opinion. Still, I haven’t found much other stuff that is objectionable, though I have a sneaking suspicion it’s there somewhere (they have car flags for sale, for example — they display of which is a violation of the flag code — but I digress). The authors appear to be well-intentioned, if less informed than I prefer.
Texas’ Region XIII Education Service Center features several lesson plans and other materials, keyed more to Texas but probably suitable for use in other states, too. Read the rest of this entry »