This feature was written by guest author Stephanie Greenhut, education technology specialist, National Archives, and co-author Kate Devine, public affairs specialist, U.S. Department of Education.
September 17 is designated as Constitution Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The Federal Convention had first convened in May to revise the Articles of Confederation, but the need for an entirely new frame of government became clear. State delegates debated issues, such as federalism and representation, all through the summer as they drafted the articles of the new Constitution.
The National Archives in Washington, DC, is the permanent home of the United States Constitution. Celebrate and learn more about our federal government’s founding document with these nine activities and resources.
1. Visit the Constitution in person: If you can, check out the National Archives Museum, open any day of the year other than Thanksgiving and December 25. Learn more about the creation and history of the Constitution, and meet America’s Founding Fathers, in the “The Charters of Freedom” online exhibit.
2. Try reading the Constitution: Read with your kids, and talk about what you’ve read. And check out some interesting facts about the Constitution as well.
3. Make a quill pen: For younger kids, see if they know what implement was used to write the Constitution. Try re-creating a feather pen with household items, such as colored paper, pencil, and ribbon (e.g., wrapping paper around the pencil and attaching pieces of ribbon or tissue paper). Ask your kids if they were in charge of writing a government document, what would they chose as the subject?
4. Explore how the First Congress proposed amendments: Learn how the First Congress proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789 in “Congress Creates the Bill of Rights.” The eBook, mobile app for tablets, and online resources, created by the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives, will launch on Constitution Day, September 17, 2014.
5. Take part in a learning lab: Plan a visit to the National Archives to participate in a Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab. School groups, families, and other groups of civic-minded individuals can take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action.
6. Help kids understand fundamental concepts: Learn about checks and balances, separation of powers, amendments, the Bill of Rights, slavery and the Constitution, and more through online activities that encompass documents from the National Archives.
7. Learn more about our history: Find out more about the Constitutional Convention, drafting and ratifying the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the three branches of our federal government, and how the National Archives is preserving our Constitution in a Constitution course.
8. Connect primary sources that span the course of American history to the principles found in the Constitution: Play “The Constitution at Work” and match primary sources to articles of the Constitution. Or read “Exploring the United States Constitution,” an eBook that explores the Constitutional roots of the three branches of our government.
9. Create your own Bill of Rights: Help kids understand The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments of the Constitution that enumerate freedoms for citizens, such as religion, speech, and assembly. With your child, write your own Bill of Rights for your family, with everyone signing at the bottom.
These are just some suggestions and resources you might find helpful. Browse more resources on Constitution Day in FREE. See what ideas you and your kids can come up with, too!
For educators and administrators at educational institutions that receive federal funds: Please refer to the Department’s guidance on Commemorating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.