This Constitution Day, explore the Constitution with your students — no matter the grade level or subject. Here’s how.Aug 27, 2021
Constitution Day is on Sept. 17, 2021, and commemorates the anniversary of when the "Founding Fathers" signed the U.S. Constitution. The date offers a unique opportunity to impart lessons to students about government, rules, civic responsibility, civil discourse, and more.
“Students are so inundated with news on social media. It’s a nice thing to come back and say, ‘Here’s where it all started,” says Liz Evans, a National Board Certified Teacher Manager of Regional Programs at the Bill of Rights Institute. “When you hear things like, ‘That’s not Constitutional,’ understanding the roots of that becomes really important.”
Evans, who has 17 years of experience as an educator, knows teachers are busy with curriculums to follow and limited time in the classroom to teach the constitution. “There are so many different ways to engage students without having to wholly disrupt what you already have to do,” she says.
Here, she offers several examples of how she’s enjoyed incorporating Constitution Day activities into the classroom.
Use Plug-and-Play Resources
There’s plenty of existing content out there that you can bring into your classroom.
- The Constitution Center's podcasts offer thoughtful debates on all sides of constitutional issues.
- Constitution Day Live provides programming from the Bill of Rights Institute for teaching about the Constitution in the classroom.
- Road to the Constitution features lesson plans from iCivics for middle and high school students regarding why and how the Constitution came about.
- Race to Ratify! allows you to gamify Constitution Day for fun engagement.
Define Preamble Language
Spend time examining what the term “more perfect Union” means. This term isn’t about American exceptionalism, Evans says, but about a goal for continued improvement. “In a classroom, it’s worth exploring that it’s never going to be perfect,” she says. “It doesn’t say ‘perfect.’ It says ‘more perfect.’” To navigate that concept, Evans recommends asking students to analyze how current laws or events are attempting to better the nation.
Examine Current Events
Evans recommends looking at current court cases and examining how those cases apply to students. “I think that sometimes what students don’t understand is that the Constitution is being applied every day in a lot of different ways,” she says. “Once they start to see that and understand it, then Constitution Day isn’t just a day.”
Compare Other Sets of Rules
Even younger students can glean knowledge from Constitution Day. Evans suggests using classroom rules as an analogy for the Constitution. “We are members of this classroom community,” she explains. “So as a classroom community, here are the rules we have decided to abide by.”
Take a look at how classroom rules benefit learning, exploration, and fun. “It gives students ownership,” she says. “They helped make the rules, and if the rules aren’t working, we’re helping to adjust them. And that gives them a sense of civic action, essentially — even if it’s on a smaller scale.” Evans says students often grasp how this translates to larger communities, such as a city or state, and to the nation as a whole.
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