We, the people, are aware that the United States became a country based on a constitution. However, many Americans have no idea that there is a special day set aside to celebrate the constitution. The day is celebrated during Constitution Week. Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17-the day, in 1887, Constitutional Congress met to sign the document. It is celebrated every year that the seventeenth does not fall on a weekend; then it is celebrated on the day before the seventeenth. Involving students in the celebration will bring an awareness of both the holiday and the constitution and will help teachers adhere to the requirement to teach about the constitution.
Enter a poster contest
Every year, there is a poster contest open to K-12 children. The poster contest is one way to encourage students to learn more about their own government. This Internet contest must be entered by October first. Children make posters and submit them on-line. Check here for more details. Check here to see the winners from 2011. Download entry forms here.
Quill pen rendition
Teach your children how to make a quill pen, the instrument used to write the original constitution. Easy directions with visual aides are located here. Give each child a piece of parchment paper, a well of ink and a portion of the Preamble to the Constitution. When everyone is finished, Tape the writing together, end to end. Read the paper aloud. Let students discuss what the constitution means to them.
Living history museum
Assign students different Constitutional Congress members. Students will research the life of their assigned person and create a persona of that individual. A good starting point is found at the Constitution Day website. Once they have concluded their research, turn your room into a museum and your students into displays. Invite parents, other classrooms and staff to come to your classroom and learn about their history. Students stand at attention until someone walks up and stops in front of them. They become a living display, sharing their information as if they were the person they represent. When they complete their speech, they return to the statue mode.
Study the constitution and how it works. Then, create your own classroom constitutional congress. Have students elect a leader and have them work to form a collective classroom constitution. Students will assign one student to write the paper. All of them will sign it. Post the constitution in your classroom. Help them along with this handout from Scholastic.
Hold a birthday party to celebrate the birth of the constitution. Decorate your room with your left-over decorations from the Fourth of July. Play patriotic tunes and play games that will teach the kids about America.
Build a tree that will demonstrate the three branches of government. In the broad, bushy leaves of the tree, put three houses. One will represent the presidency, one is for the judicial branch and one will represent the congress. Break your class into three groups and ask each group to research one of the branches.
There are so many wonderful ideas you can use to teach your students about the constitution. In so doing, you will help raise a new group of well-informed citizens.