Why Constitution Day?
We celebrate Constitution Day, formerly known as Citizenship Day, on September 17. It commemorates the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787.
The Constitution is the basis for the American government today — or should be. In spite of our free public education system, even many high school and college graduates cannot explain our system of checks and balances. Many have never read the Constitution itself. They may have only heard others explain it. Their textbooks often just summarize it. Many authors do not disclose their personal biases that influence their choice of words.
Today, any American with internet access can take a free college course (without credit) from Hillsdale College. Hillsdale accepts no funding from the Federal Government. Thus the federal government cannot control its policies or what it teaches. Anyone can now watch all the videos from Hillsdale’s course Constitution 101 free online.
From its founding in 1844 Hillsdale College has never discriminated on the basis of race, gender, or national origin. In fact, it opposed slavery and attracted and welcomed anti-slavery leaders like Frederick Douglass and Edward Everett.
If you prefer auditory learning to book learning, don’t miss this opportunity Hillsdale College offers you. Click here to get a free and thorough video education on the Constitution from Hillsdale College. This course will equip you to answer any questions your students or children might ask. It will also make you more knowledgeable when discussing the Constitution with other adults
Do you Need Help Teaching Students about the Constitution?
On September 17, or the closest school day to it, schools which accept any funding from the United States Government are required to hold an educational program about the Constitution for their students. The federal government does not mandate what is taught during these presentations. Schools and teachers are free to plan these programs themselves.
If you are planning such a program for middle school grades or above, you might find one of the following DVD’s helpful. I have only seen the first one, A More Perfect Union, and I highly recommend it for home or school use. It captures the drama that surrounded the writing of the Constitution and brings our founding fathers to life.
A More Perfect Union: America Becomes A Nation – The Making of the U.S. Constitution by Brigham Young UniversityA DVD History of the US Constitution (1619-2005)Just the Facts: Us Constitution & Bill of Rights [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]DESIGN FOR LIBERTY DVD, A
If you need to explain the Constitution to younger students, there are also a number of books available that are fun to read. I personally like Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz. Fritz tells the story of the Constitution with humor to hold the attention of children ages 8-11.
Lynne Cheney’s We the People for grades 3-5 is a beautifully illustrated picture book. Some students in those grades, however, may find some of the vocabulary challenging and need adult help. I recommend reading it aloud and explaining words that may not yet be in a child’s vocabulary.
Jonathan Hennessey has collaborated with Aaron McConnell to produce a graphic adaptation of the Constitution that reads like a comic book. Graphic novels, which include nonfiction now, are appropriate for students who aren’t likely to read the Constitution itself. Reviewers say it does get the concepts of the document across well, but some reviewers say it’s also a bit ideological in places. Be sure to read the reviews of The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation before buying it and know which parts of it you might want to discuss.
Shh! We’re Writing the ConstitutionWe the People: The Story of Our ConstitutionThe United States Constitution: A Graphic AdaptationThe U.S. Constitution Coloring Book Just For KidsThe U.S. Constitution Knowledge Cards DeckThe Creation of the U.S. Constitution (Graphic History)Jumpstarters for the U.S. Constitution, Grades 4 – 8: Short Daily Warm-ups for the Classroom. . . If You Were There When They Signed the ConstitutionThe U.S. Constitution (American Milestones (Gallopade International))
I have also included some Constitution Day coloring and activity books above to provide for a hands-on learning experience.
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I hope these resources will help your students see what a unique and exciting document our Constitution is. Let’s hope they will realize how our liberty depends on keeping our Constitution intact. The future of the Constitution and our form of American government will soon be in their hands.