17 September 2009

Constitution Day 2009

Happy Constitution Day, my friends! Every year on September 17th, we celebrate the founding charter of these United States. Typically, I like to celebrate by watching lots of television or seeing a movie (freedom of speech/press!), but this year, I was invited to do something a little different. I was asked to give a "lecture" (I use the term very loosely) to 5th grade students at Cambridge Academy East in Mesa, Arizona on what the Constitution is and why it is important.

I admit, I had a lot of fun setting this one up. The teachers combined classrooms for the presentation, a total of about 50 kids:
We started off with a basic history of the Constitution, from the Magna Carta in 1215 (1297 amended) to the Articles of Confederation (1776-77):
I decided to do something fun, so I drew representations of each of the three branches of government as I talked about them. First, the Supreme Court for the Judicial Branch:
Then the White House for the Executive Branch:
And finally the Capitol Building for the Legislative Branch:
The kids enjoyed hearing about the different qualifications for the offices, their powers, and some of the fun details I had to share (like, Thanksgiving isn't about food and Pilgrims as much as George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks for the Constitution).
I also brought in several different copies of the Constitution that I own, showing them those to try to illustrate a point about how different scholars have been trying to interpret the Founding Fathers' words for centuries, they're still working out how all the laws interact today, and it will be the charge of the next generation to maintain and interpret the Constitution in the years to come.
Here are 8 of my personal copies. The one in the middle is a Heritage Foundation interpretive book from a panel forum I attended at the Young America's Foundation West Coast Leadership Conference. Around the outside are (from top right, clockwise) an 1897 schoolbook history of the United States, a Constitution Day 2006 copy with Bill of Rights bookmark, a copy from the National Archives in DC, a copy from Liberty Day 2008, a copy signed and presented to me by Congressman Rick Renzi in 2006 for my work on his campaign, a "pocket Constitution" from the WCLC, and a gilded parchment copy that I received as a gift one Christmas:
I would like to hope the kids enjoyed the presentation. I tried to make it fun, including a Constitution Day word search and class demonstrations of voting by population (House of Representatives) versus the "one-state-one-vote" concept in the Articles of Confederation which extended to the Senate when the Constitution was written.
Hopefully, I will get the chance to do bigger and better presentations in the future as well. It's nice teaching elementary students, but I think I would connect better with high school government students on a lot of things!

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