All hail the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia for giving us this great day to celebrate the Constitution. The great orator of American lore enables us to consider the greatness of the Constitution a little bit more.
In honor of this illustrious day, I give you some resources.
Constitution Day Hall Pass
I love the Constitution Center up in Philadelphia, and have taken a few batches of students up there to meander the fantastic interactive exhibits. My teammate and I are also trying to schedule a "field trip" that comes to us... (please PTA)...
But even more fun is the new Constitution Day resource offered by the Center, Constitution Hall Pass
Here, in a video as well as a guided discussion, the Bill of Rights (written almost exclusively by James Madison) is discussed, along with the truly revolutionary 14th Amendment and the Supreme Court case J.S. v Blue Mountain.
The Center gives lots of insight, along with materials for use in the classroom.
A lovely introduction to the evolution of the Constitution.
Resources from the Library of Congress
The LOC offers us tons and tons of ideas for how to celebrate Constitution Day with your students.
While not as polished as the resources offered elsewhere on the web, there are ample lessons and primary source documents that cover our founding document.
Particularly interesting to me is a lesson asking students to make connections to early political debates concerning the relationship between state and federal governments that asks students to apply to modern debates.
The Constitute Project
If you are teaching comparative government, maybe you can take a moment to examine the wide discrepancy in constitutions globally courtesy of the Constitute Project. Perhaps you can have kids look at how select constitutions stack up against the US government, and sift through them for examples of political distribution across a geographic space, differences in civil rights and liberties, the rule of law and limited government, and other fun concepts just like that.
The Bill of Rights Project
The BoRI rolled out a big new resource this August called Documents of Freedom, which offers rigorous explorations of foundational documents in a free course format with assessments, readings, and presentations. Gotta love FREE.
In addition to that, BoRI has different resources for students of all ages, from interactive games inviting students to interview the founding fathers or imagine life without the Bill of Rights to quizzes that test student knowledge of the Constitution that can cover your legal obligation in 15 minutes or less. (A great bellringer so you can move on with your curriculum!)
US Capitol Historical Society
In a dream scenario, my ultimate goal would be to talk about the evolution of a strong central government over time.
For instance, I spent time this week explaining to my students why the states are called states and not provinces. When the Constitutional Convention was called, the original states wanted to maintain their sovereignty. They wanted to relinquish only enough powers to make the alliance able to perform basic functions associated primarily with defense and peace-keeping. (Look at the preamble... the modern state you and I know in DC is so consumed by "general welfare," but that concern clocks in almost last on the FF's list of goals.)
Every other function of government (left intentionally out of Article 1 Section 8's honey-do list and preserved by Amendment X later) was left to the states, and thus their title as a state.
It's fascinating to watch an evolution away from dual federalism, with delineated powers and functions, towards cooperative and fiscal federalism, as well as a truncation of state's rights with the role out of Civil Rights legislation. Even more fascinating is the push to return to a more local government... a recapturing of powers unenumerated... a stricter interpretation of the 14th amendment.
But, this is hard. If I could do this, I would try this lesson plan out from the USCHS... and get myself an FRQ. But maybe your class is different.
Pressed for time? Try this...
The WaPo created a short quiz you can roll out in class... in ten minutes or less.
OR just go to the Constitution Day website!
Check out the Presidential Proclamation of Constitution Day!
I have a bunch of resources for sale on the Constitution on my store.
Check them out, ranging from a year long re-write of the Constitution complete with application and interpretation of constitutional principles to a Constitutional Bingo to an activity identifying actual proposed amendments to the Constitution by James Madison himself.
Happy Constitution Day!
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan