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.
* No kidding! Heres the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regulation to implement the law:
§74.33. Additional Requirements for Social Studies Classes for Grades 3-12.
(a) Instruction during Celebrate Freedom Week. Each social studies class shall include, during Celebrate Freedom Week as provided under Texas Education Code, §29.907, or during another full school week as determined by the board of trustees of a school district, appropriate instruction concerning the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. The study of the Declaration of Independence must include the study of the relationship of the ideas expressed in that document to subsequent American history, including the relationship of its ideas to the rich diversity of our people as a nation of immigrants, the American Revolution, the formulation of the United States Constitution, and the abolitionist movement, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the women’s suffrage movement.
(b) Recitation during Celebrate Freedom Week.
(1) Each school district shall require that, during Celebrate Freedom Week or other week of instruction prescribed under subsection (a) of this section, students in Grades 3-12 study and recite the following text: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
(2) Each school district shall excuse from the recitation a student:
(A) whose parent or guardian submits to the district a written request that the student be excused;
(B) who, as determined by the district, has a conscientious objection to the recitation; or
(C) who is the child of a representative of a foreign government to whom the United States government extends diplomatic immunity.
Source: The provisions of this §74.33 adopted to be effective December 7, 2003, 28 TexReg 10935.
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