As we close out the Labor Day holiday, there is another day worth commemorating at the end of summer and beginning of the school year: September 17 — Constitution and Citizenship Day. The day was first designated by Congress in 1952, and in 2004 the Congress required all educational institutions that receive Federal funding to hold an educational program pertaining to the Constitution, and all Federal agencies to provide employees with education or training about the Constitution to mark the day.
The Constitution Day commemoration requirement was sponsored in legislation by the late Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-West Virginia). He also sponsored the legislation that established the Department of Education’s (ED) Teaching American History (TAH) grant program. As these two pieces of legislation relate to one another, we will honor both at ED’s Constitution Day commemoration, which will focus on the accomplishments of the TAH program. This year marks the end of funding of TAH grants, but the program has established a legacy of materials which teachers and students will be able to use for years to come.
Did you know that the Teaching American History grants resulted in many useful activities and products, including the following?
- Research on the history of the Constitution
- Digital projects that make the content of primary historical sources accessible to teachers and students
- Teacher professional development on teaching the country’s history, including weekend workshops
- Scripts for students to play the roles of Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention
These are just a few of the many activities and resources that were created for the study of the Constitution and the many other events in our history through the TAH program.
At the ED commemoration, representatives of various TAH grantees will discuss their work. For example, Dr. Kelly Schrum directed the development of Teachinghistory.org, a free online clearinghouse, which provides millions of teachers with history content, teaching strategies, best practices, and digital resources to improve U.S. history education in their classrooms. Dr. Fran O’Malley, a former Delaware Teacher of the Year, State History Teacher of the Year, and recipient of a James Madison Memorial Foundation Fellowship, created the “New Nation” weekend workshop under the TAH grant. The weekend workshop gave teachers the opportunity to assume the roles of delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Dr. Kevin Brady created the CICERO History series of on-line resources for teaching the Constitution, which includes numerous original videos and state-focused readings that are used in hundreds of school districts across the country. He also established the Liberty Fellowships to increase history content knowledge of teachers across the nation and has developed curriculum for U.S. history at the high school and college levels.
As we celebrate Constitution and Citizenship Day, the products of the TAH grants point to what Benjamin Franklin said in his speech at the end of the Constitutional Convention: “I hope. . . as part of the people. . . that we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution . . . and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered.” We at ED are reminded that we swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” when we entered Federal government service, thus agreeing to uphold the Constitution. In carrying out our duties, we are aware of ED’s mission and the power of equity in education, which can change lives by helping to ensure that all students have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential.
In addition to TAH- funded resources, there are myriad other resources and activities which families and classrooms can use to plan a Constitution Day event. For your convenience, we have posted a few examples below. Let us know what you are doing!
- For more information and ideas for how to observe Constitution Day, the Department has developed a resource page on its website
- The National Archives Education Updates page provides information about Constitution Day. The Archives also has resources for teachers and families, including activities, a calendar of events, and workshop
- The Library of Congress American Memory project provides numerous resources on the Constitution, including S. Congressional documents, Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention documents, and Constitution Day resources
- The National Endowment for the Humanities provides content on the Constitution through the EDSITEMENT web site
- The S. Senate has posted material from the Legislative Branch
- The National Constitution Center offers, on their website, a wide variety of free activities, education programs, videos, games, historical documents, and Constitution FAQs
Note: The non-governmental websites cited in this blog are provided as examples of resources for Constitution Day that you might find helpful. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of these sites, nor does our inclusion here constitute an endorsement of the sites, the material on the sites, or the related products or services of the entity that provided the information. There are many other resources available that may be just as helpful or more helpful.
We encourage Federal, State, and local officials, as well as leaders of civic, social, and educational organizations, to consider conducting ceremonies and programs for Constitution Day that bring together community members to reflect on the importance of active citizenship, recognize the enduring strength of our Constitution, and reaffirm our commitment to the rights and obligations of citizenship in this great Nation.