The Government Domain: Back to School for Constitution Day 2008By Peggy Garvin, Published on August 24, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 is Constitution Day in the United States. Educational institutions and federal executive employees observe the day with some sort of edifying lesson, program, or distributed materials about our Constitution. The Constitution Day observance was established in a section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Public Law 108-447. The PDF version of this lengthy public law is available through GPO Access. The Constitution Day language is near the end of the law, in Division J – Other Matters.
An excerpt is reprinted here for your convenience:
SEC. 111. (a) The head of each Federal agency or department shall—
(1) provide each new employee of the agency or department with educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution as part of the orientation materials provided to the new employee; and
(b) Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.
(2) provide educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution to each employee of the agency or department on September 17 of each year.
Following the law’s passage, the Education Department issued a “Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year,” 70 Fed. Reg. 29727 (May 24, 2005). The notice applies to educational institutions receiving federal funding from the Department of Education.
For Constitution Day planners, this column links to a variety of web resources for online versions of the United States Constitution and related teaching materials.
Constitution Online Versions and Related Historical Documents
There are many free, online sources for the Constitution and related historical documents. Among them:
- American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: iCon, The Constitution for the iPod
- GPO Access: Constitution Main Page
- The Government Printing Office produces the Constitution in several formats, and links to all of them here. This page showcases the Congressional Research Service (CRS) publication The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation: Annotations of Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in its 2002 edition with the 2004 and 2006 supplements. It can be searched or browsed, and each section has a unique URL for building direct links to the section in HTML or PDF format. GPO also has printed the Constitution in the form of Senate or House documents, and these are available on the same page, in plain text and PDF. PDF versions include The U.S. Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution as Amended, with Unratified Amendments & Analytical Index, and The Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence, Pocket Edition.
- Library of Congress: Primary Documents in American History: United States Constitution
- The Library of Congress pulls together links to its numerous online resources, including the Broadsides collection described below, for this one-stop collection guide. A highlight is the set of digitized volumes from Max Farrand's The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Farrand’s Records includes the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, and the notes and letters of James Madison and other participants. (Note that the American Memory Collections provide a “Document ID” at the bottom of each item record; the URL can be used for linking purposes.) Other resources linked from this page include the digitized papers of James Madison from the Library’s Manuscript Division and
- Library of Congress: Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention Broadsides Collection
- Part of the Library’s American Memory offerings, this digitized collection holds hundreds of documents relating to the work of the Continental Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. It features an early printing of the Constitution. The Broadsides Collection page also links to supplemental teaching material. The web presentation “To Form a More Perfect Union” includes a section on Creating a Constitution, which links to the documents — including the 1787 committee draft of the Constitution — within the context of the historical narrative. The Broadsides page also links to related curriculum material called Collection Connections.
- National Archives: Charters of Freedom: Constitution of the United States
- The Archives presents high resolution images of the fading parchment Constitution and Bills of Rights. (The image files are quite large. For technical tips on using them, see the high resolution downloads page.) This site also features material on the history and impact of the Constitution and related documents, and biographies of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention.
- National Public Radio and New York Times: Justice Learning
- United States Senate: Reference: The Constitution
- This version places each section of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments alongside brief and simple explanations. The Senate website also has a Constitution Day page.
- Yale Avalon Project: The American Constitution: A Documentary Record
- The Avalon Project presents HTML versions of early American historical documents arranged under the following headings: Roots of the Constitution; Revolution and Independence; Credentials of the Members of the Federal Convention; The Constitutional Convention; and Ratification and Formation of the Government. In addition to the Constitution, documents include the English Bill of Rights from 1689; original American state constitutions from 1776; variant texts of plans proposed at the Constitutional Convention; and the ratification documents from individual states.
Constitution Day Teaching Resources
The following web sites offer teaching or program support appropriate for Constitution Day. The resources cover the full range of audiences, from children to adults.
- Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts: Constitution Day – Federal Courts Educational Outreach
- The site features a videotaped conversation among Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and a group of high school students, with follow-up questions for local discussion. Educational content includes Constitution Day discussion topics, “fast facts” on the courts and the Constitution, and interactive games.
- American Bar Association: Conversations on the Constitution
- As described on the website, “Conversations on the Constitution is a program of the ABA Division for Public Education to encourage civil discussion and debate about the meaning of some of the Constitution's concepts and clauses that have been the subject of ongoing constitutional debates.” The site includes “conversation starters” on Constitutional topics, classroom lesson plans, and interactive quizzes.
- Bill of Rights Institute: Constitution Day Resources
- The nonprofit Bill of Rights Institute makes a variety of Constitution Day activities and lesson plans available online.
- Constitutional Rights Foundation: Constitution Day
- Lesson plans are available for kindergarten through high school. The Constitutional Rights Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization “dedicated to educating America's young people about the importance of civic participation in a democratic society,” as stated on the website.
- Department of Defense: Constitution Day and Citizenship Day Website
- This Defense website features a brief online course about the U.S. Constitution designed for DoD employees but available to anyone.
- Library of Congress: Constitution Day Resources
- The Library of Congress THOMAS website links to an extensive list of relevant teaching resources, including lesson plans and Constitution-related “Stories for Kids from America’s Library.” Also see Primary Source Set: The Constitution from the Library’s learning Page; it includes a teacher’s guide and primary source images.
- National Archives: Teaching with Documents: Observing Constitution Day
- The Archives provides suggestions for teaching activities. “Lessons by Era” links to historical incidents from 1754 to present, many of which can be tied to Constitutional principles and amendments. The National Archives also has an online, self-service U.S. Constitution Workshop suitable for grades 4 through 12.
- National Constitution Center: Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline
- The National Constitution Center is an independent, non-partisan organization. Their web site offers a timeline marking key events in our constitutional history from 1765 to the present. The site has an interactive, Flash-based version for broadband connections and an HTML version for low-bandwidth connections. The Constitution Center site also presents an engaging Interactive Constitution based on The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk (New York: Hyperion, 2003).
- National Endowment for the Humanities: EDSITEment - Constitution Day
- This page features lesson plans and special features appropriate for Constitution Day. EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities. The website links to online lesson plans and educational resources on a variety of subjects.
- Office of Personnel Management: Constitution Initiative
- OPM set up this web page “to provide Federal Executive Branch agencies and departments resources to support training of their employees on the U.S. Constitution.” One section describes the Constitution’s Link to the Oath of Office taken by federal employees.
- Public Broadcasting Service (PBS): Why Celebrate Constitution Day?
- This classroom lesson plan is part of the PBS Rediscovering George Washington website.
- U.S. Mint Kids Page: Constitution Day
- An explanation of Constitution Day and a Constitution quiz are featured on this educational page from the Mint.
|The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution (Stonesong Press Books)|
Author: Linda R. Monk
List price: $14.95 USD
Amazon price: $14.28 USD