On September 17, 1787 thirty-nine men signed the U.S. Constitution and established the first official set of governing laws for our country. In 1911, President William Howard Taft declared this date Constitution Day. Ever since then, teachers everywhere struggle to turn their classrooms into a colonial experience fun enough for a party yet educational enough to capture the importance of the historical date. Here are a few ideas to help ease the struggle.
Everyone loves to dress up for a party and Constitution Day is no exception. A prepared teacher will want to plan this part of the event a few days early. Sending home a letter a day or two beforehand announcing the opportunity for students to dress up for the party is a great way to make sure all students remember to wear their costumes.
Students should be encouraged to wear outfits from the time period when the Constitution was signed. Boys could wear knee-length knickers, a button-up shirt, suspenders, and maybe a jacket and/or a hat. Girls should wear long, ankle-length dresses with aprons over the top. All clothes should be neutral in color to match the era.
Teachers will want to decorate their classrooms before students come in the day of the party. A large copy of the Constitution itself would be the number one decoration any teacher should have in the class. Pictures of some of the signers of the document should be included in decorations. This will allow the students to connect faces with the signatures. Other decorations could include stars, stripes, and red, white, and blue streamers and balloons. Another possible idea would be to display pictures of the American flag as it changed throughout history.
Every school party must include a break for the students, and the teacher, to allow students to actually learn the reason behind the celebration. Depending on the age of the students, teachers can choose one of two paths. Younger students may learn the concept of a constitution by creating one for the classroom. The teacher can guide students in selecting which rules for the school and the classroom they wish to include in their own Classroom Constitution. Older students may benefit and enjoy developing a constitution for their homes. Another option is to have the older students create a constitution based on what they believe is right and/or fair.
Another lesson plan for Constitution Day is to include stories about those who signed the Constitution. For the older elementary children, an idea is to have the children write a story as if he/she was actually present at the signing of the Constitution. Have the children include the atmosphere, who all was present, what the document said. Teachers could read short biographies about some of the people who signed the Constitution. Both activities will allow for the students to get a better understanding of who the signers were and what the document was about.
What party would be complete without craft time? For the Constitution Day party, all students will have a blast creating their own feather pens. Younger children can make their pens using feathers and the inside ink components from a ball point pen. Older, more responsible children may find it fun to create a more authentic pen using just the feather and an ink well. Directions to make both types of pens are located here.
Period specific hats are not only fun to make but also fun to wear. Boys can create three corner hats while girls design mob caps or bonnet shaped hats. For instructions to both, check out this website.
When it comes to children and parties, everyone knows snacks are the most important part of the day. One great dessert at the time of the signing of the Constitution was Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream. It would be fun and tasty to top this homemade treat with red, white, and blue sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry. This recipe can be found here.
225 years ago, when the Constitution was originally signed, the idea of Constitution Day celebrations was not even in the works. Today, teachers scour the internet for ideas with which to amuse their classrooms for a party 101 years old. Hopefully these ideas will provide great inspiration and enjoyment for both teachers and students alike.