Dream Big … as the Constitution Allows You!
Celebrating 225 years - Sept. 17, 1787 - 2012
PBA Celebrate the Constitution Poster, Essay and Video Contests
This year's theme celebrates the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The theme is "Dream Big … as the Constitution Allows You!" Use the poster, essay and video contests as a fun follow-up activity to assess students' comprehension of your lesson on the Constitution or American government. Ask students to express their dreams for the future and how the Constitution and freedoms we enjoy as Americans allow them to pursue their dreams.
What makes our country different from other countries; what freedoms do we enjoy; what is the student's favorite freedom or right? Encourage your students to enter the poster or essay contest or work as a class to develop a video about their dreams for the future, their dreams for the U.S., our freedoms and rights as U.S. citizens.
Watch last year's winning video entry from Pickering Valley Elementary School's fifth grade class which inspired this year's "Dream Big…" theme. Teacher Audrey Blust used last year's "I Have a Dream …" theme to encourage students to research American heroes and think about how their ability to dream and pursue their dreams made significant contributions to the lives of all Americans. Heroes like Dr. Jonas Salk who discovered the polio vaccine, Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator and civil rights leader who founded a college for African American students, and Yo Yo Ma, a Grammy Award-winning American cellist and orchestral composer who has been awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. See Mrs. Blust's lesson ideas below and get inspired to create your own lessons to supplement your curriculum this fall. The constitution and dream theme can be used in almost any subject area from reading and writing, to science and math, to music and art, and of course social studies! Learn more about the contests and enter your class this year!
Official Rules and Entry Forms for Celebrate the Constitution Poster, Essay and Video Contests
Poster, Essay and Video Contest Rules
Poster and Essay Contest Entry Form
Video Contest Entry Form
American Heroes Lesson Ideas and Resources
Mrs. Blust used the book "50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet" by Dr. Dennis Dennenberg. Visit his website to learn more about the book and access articles on teaching about heroes and numerous ideas you can easily use in your classroom.
Students in Mrs. Blust's class selected a hero from the book and researched to learn more about the person's life. One of the fun projects they did was to create a T-shirt about their hero. Using a simple white T-shirt and fabric markers, they drew and wrote things about their hero - including their favorite quote. They wore their t-shirts and shared what they discovered about their hero with their classmates, the principal and other visitors, including me! They shared how the person didn't give up on their dream and how the Constitution gave them the freedom to pursue their ideas and passion. They were able to express why the hero they chose appealed to them, inspired them or motivated them for their own future. They also used what they learned about some of their American heroes as the introduction to their Dream Big video.
"A Student with a Dream is a Student with a Future!"
This quote from Darrell Andrews reminds us of the important role of dreams in our lives. You don't have to use the American heroes ideas for your lessons or for the contest. This was just one idea to inspire you and your students. Dream Big! and get creative using the theme to engage students in learning about how the law and the constitution impact their lives every day and to teach them about dreams, goals, plans and what it takes to achieve and be successful in life.
Get Your Students Inspired and Engaged With These Video Examples
"A Dream" music video featuring Common and produced by Will.I.Am. The song was written for the inspiring 2007 movie "Freedom Writers," in which a young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves and pursue education beyond high school. The song samples Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Watch the winning "Freedom Rocks!" audio/video entry by Pickering Valley Elementary fifth graders in Audrey Blust's class for last year's 2010 PBA Celebrate the Constitution and 2011 Law Day contests.
An inspiring must see! Watch this Martin Luther King Jr. Day video from elementary students in Texas. In the first part of this video, students portray famous figures in black history speaking quotes from their lives. The second part has those characters reciting part of the Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. This portrayal gave the students unique insight into the lives of these people and of the importance of Dr. King's speech in history.
Watch a 30-second video example of freedom of speech created by high school students in Tennessee titled "It took the voice of one to promote change... It took the voices of all to make it happen. Express your right to freedom of speech. You never know what you can accomplish."
Watch this example of an elementary video/audio project from first graders in the Allentown School District.
Listen to an original rap on Authority, Responsibility, Privacy, Justice performed by first grade students in Mike Keefer's class in the Allentown School District.
Rap Lyrics - Word Doc
Make a Rap about the Constitution
Get inspired by these videos of young people who have composed their own rap songs about the U.S. Constitution and American history. There are many more on YouTube. These are just a few examples.
Sixth graders performing the Preamble - a great class activity
Bill of Rights Rap
U.S. Constitution Preamble song from Schoolhouse Rock - You Tube Video
An elementary class performing the Schoolhouse Rock version of the Preamble. Why not try this with your class? Enlist the help of the music teacher!
Hand signs for the preamble. Use these hand signs to help students remember and act out the Preamble.
The U.S. Constitution
National Archives web
National Constitution Center web
Constitutional Sources Project web
Bill of Rights: The First Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution Student Handout
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Information and explanation about the Pennsylvania Constitution
Declaration of Rights from the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania - Student Handout
Lesson: The Pennsylvania Constitution as Compared to the United States Constitution
A Look at the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions - Rights and Freedoms: Where Are They Found?
iCivics is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. iCivics is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support.
FantasySCOTUS - Supreme Court of the United States
FantasySCOTUS is a Supreme Court fantasy league in which players predict current case outcomes, and it is already a wild hit with law students, attorneys, and judicial chambers across the country. In the high school edition, Harlan selects cases of special interest to students. The students learn about fundamental legal principles, make predictions about these cases, compete and collaborate with other classes nationwide, and write analytical blog posts about them. The site is free for all teachers and students to use, and can be used as a classroom exercise, or in extra-curricular clubs like debate teams or Junior Statesmen of America clubs. FantasySCOTUS is effective for pedagogical purposes because it is real and relevant. Rather than focusing entirely on cases from the past, as all textbooks do, students address current cases that they read about in the news. The study of law is routinely presented as dry, dull, and irrelevant to most people; FantasySCOTUS elaborates on current cases which have immediate impacts on people's lives.
The Harlan Institute
The Harlan Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping high school teachers educate students about the United States Constitution and our legal system. The Harlan Institute's mission is to bring about a stylized law school experience into the high school classroom to ensure that our next generation of leaders has a proper understanding of our most fundamental laws. By utilizing the expertise of leading legal scholars and the interactivity of online games, Harlan will help teachers introduce students to the Constitution, the cases of the United States Supreme Court, and our system of justice. Visit The Harlan Institute's website to register your classroom and access free lesson plans on current Supreme Court cases, as well as interactive forums and chat rooms. While visiting the site, teachers may also contact staff at Harlan to discuss the program in more detail and how it can supplement their teaching plans.
Center for Civic Education
Please visit the Center for Civic Education's newly designed web site for excellent Constitution Day lessons categorized by grade level.
The U.S. Constitution: Teachable Clips is a virtual U.S. Constitution. It features video clips taken from C-SPAN's Video Library with prominent political figures discussing various parts of the Constitution.
U.S. Constitution Vignette (18 minutes)
A short documentary video on the history, meaning, and provisions of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the operation of government within the parameters set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Video footage highlights the operation of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government by providing footage of several recent events and activities such as presidential inaugurals, impeachment proceedings, legislative events, and Supreme Court oral arguments. Chief Justice Roberts also talked about ways in which the Constitution had been interpreted and its function as a working document. Classroom discussion questions are provided.
How to search the C-SPAN Video Library
A short YouTube video produced by "Howcast" to help you search the C-SPAN Video Library.
American Institute for History Education
The American Institute for History Education (AIHE) was established to provide engaging historical content and activities for social studies and history teachers to use in their classrooms. AIHE has developed products to dramatically increase students' academic achievements by boosting their comprehension of historical events, personalities and issues. Teaching American History Beyond the Textbook™ with CICERO, and other AIHE tools, improves critical thinking, reading and understanding skills. AIHE specializes in teaching history, professional development for teachers, curriculum design and teaching history products, school grant writing and more.
AIHE TV has videos for history teachers, students and history buffs.
60-Second Civics is a daily podcast from the Center for Civic Education that provides a quick and convenient way for listeners to learn about our nation's government, the Constitution, and our history. The podcast explores themes related to civics and government, the constitutional issues behind the headlines, and the people and ideas that formed our nation's history and government. The show's content is primarily derived from the Center's education for democracy curricula, including We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Project Citizen, Foundations of Democracy, and Elements of Democracy.
Annenberg Classroom offers a wide array of educational resources under a single umbrella. Educators can find curricula, lesson plans, multimedia programs, and other teaching materials all indexed and in conformance with the educational standards of their state. Search by keyword, by subject area, or by state standard to find one of the richest sets of teaching aids available in a single location.
Which Founder Are You?
Have students take the "Which Founder Are You?" online quiz from the National Constitution Center. Students answer a series of questions that help them learn about themselves and then see which of the drafters of the Constitution they are most like. The quiz helps make the Founding fathers more relatable to students and shows them as "ordinary" men.
The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952 - 2008
This is a great resource for teachers! The site has presidential election campaign commercials from 1952-2008 and includes lesson plans.
Constitution Day Videos feature Supreme Court Justices Talking with Students about the Constitution
Viewers will get firsthand perspectives on how the Supreme Court decides what the Constitution means when they watch a 37-minute conversation with Justices Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer and a group of high school students. The taped discussion explores different theories of judicial interpretation and how they affect not only the outcomes of cases but democracy and daily life.
The video is available on the Educational Outreach pages of the federal courts' Internet site at http://www.uscourts.gov/outreach/index.html and can be shown on a large screen. Courts have found it easy to host high school students to watch the program in a courtroom. A judge facilitates the follow-up discussion of the issues using an optional, prepared discussion guide found at http://www.uscourts.gov/outreach/resources/constitutionday.html#discussion
PBS - Public Broadcasting Service Lessons
Why Celebrate Constitution Day? A lesson plan for grades 9-12 from PBS.
Supreme Court Watch
George Washington and the Rule of Law
George Washington and Civic Virtue And there are others on topics like slavery, religious liberty, equal protection of law, government by consent, constitution and idea of compromise, and more.
Inside the Voting Booth What a difference one vote makes - an historical look at how elections would have been changed by one vote.
Step into a voting time machine - would you have been able to vote in another time in history?
You Make the Rules Small groups of students form their own clubs then determine their mission and common goals, a name for their club, and a logo. Then each group writes a charter which specifies their goals, decision-making procedures, meeting times, and so on. Upon completion, each group member signs the charter.
Resources from StreetLaw
New resources from the 2010 Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers
New and updated resources and teaching materials for recently decided Supreme Court cases are now available on the Institute's resource page.
About the Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers
Since it began in 1995, the Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers has brought together over 800 teachers from across the country to convene in Washington, D.C., for six days of educational activities related to teaching about the U.S. Supreme Court. The Institute is co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Teaching about Miranda warnings
During the 2009-10 term, the U.S. Supreme Court considered several cases about Miranda warnings. We have collected a variety of teaching resources, both on the original case of Miranda v. Arizona, and on the issues regarding these warnings over the past 44 years.
The Best of StreetLaw.org
A compilation of links to StreetLaw's most popular resources.
What are my Rights?
High School 9 - 12
Time: Three 1-hour sessions
Author: Leslie Harper Blatteau New Haven, Connecticut
Studying the Constitution can seem less than vital to students who are most interested in issues that directly affect them. This lesson engages students in a study of the First Amendment by using it to explore youth curfews, demonstrating the impact that the law can have on their everyday lives. Using the text of the First Amendment as a starting point, students discuss whether youth curfews are constitutional. They then use a case study to closely examine both sides of the issue, debate the issue with their peers, hypothesize about the possibility of a youth curfew in their own community, and create a blog about the issue.
Bill of Rights Institute
Celebrate Constitution Day, September 17, with these activities provided by the Bill of Rights Institute.
We the People
This lesson from Scholastic helps students in grades 5-8 recognize the different parts of the U.S. Constitution and understand the significance of each part. Students will build their reading and interpretive skills by working with newspaper articles and drawing conclusions based on the information presented. They will summarize their conclusions through persuasive writing.
Orb and Effy Learn about Authority (Elementary level)
A complete lesson on authority from the Orb and Effy Learn about Authority book. In this lesson, young children learn that when people have a right to tell others what to do in certain situations, they are exercising authority. When they do not have that right, they are exercising power without authority. Children learn some ways in which people earn the right to exercise authority. The lesson also illustrates problems that are likely to arise in the absence of effective authority. Children learn how and why authority is useful
A Classroom Lesson on Developing the Federal Budget
Grade level 11-12
Time required: 2 class periods
During the Dirksen Congressional Center's annual Congress in the Classroom workshop participants are asked to introduce the lesson plans, resources, and techniques that have proven successful in teaching about Congress in their classrooms. A 2005 participant, Lori Dumerer, R.L. Turner High School, Carrollton, TX, presented a lesson entitled, "The Saga of the Money Trail: Developing the Federal Budget." In this lesson, students trace the steps in the federal budget-making process. They will recognize the complexity involved in the budget process, including the competing demands for funds. Students will analyze how compromise leads to the final budget.
Mock Constitution Signing PDF
What Responsibilities Accompany Our Rights?
What is a Republican Government?
Celebrate the Constitution special court re-enactment program from Chester County. Includes a script and mock trial related to slavery and freedom issues.
Teaching Civics through Literature - A Reading List in PDF and Word.
Mindwalk - "Ten Things I'd Rather Be Doing" (and other variations) in PDF.
The Constitutional Mindwalk
The Constitution and Money
Effectively Using Judges and Lawyers as Community Resources in Your Classroom: A Guide for Teachers
How One Pennsylvania School District "Celebrates the Constitution" and Civics Education All Year Long
Classroom Discussions and Activities
Right to Jury Trial
Ask students to describe what it would be like if there were no jury. Who would decide the outcome of a case if there were no jury? Would this be more fair? Is a judge better able to decide the law, facts and truth than citizens? What are some benefits to a jury system? Why did we decide to have a jury system? Are there other alternatives besides a judge or a jury?
Develop a Student Bill of Rights
Ask students to create a comic strip or cartoon about...
- Most important right
- Student making a difference in the school
Test Your Knowledge -What's your Constitution IQ? Interactive and print versions are available. There is a basic 10 questions quiz and two different, 50-questions, "expert" level tests (appropriate for high school students)
Constitution Fun Facts
Elementary-level Word Find
Constitution Word Find
Word Finds for high school students. Includes vocabulary list with definitions. web
Elementary-level Word find
A Constitutional Logic Puzzle Student Handout and Answer Sheet
Cryptogram (US Constitution Preamble)
Constitution LINGO and Anagrams
Below are some links to coloring pages for you to evaluate for your use in teaching about the Constitution and other U.S. history, government and civics lessons. We welcome resources and ideas from you that you would like to share with your colleagues.
Constitution Preamble Coloring Sheet
For "Celebrate the Constitution," you could use George Washington and James Madison (the only two presidents to sign the Constitution).
Coloring pages of most presidents most presidents.
Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Franklin - print and color or color online print and color or color online.
Coloring pages of many historical people, with a short paragraph about their life.
"Proud to Be an American" ethnically diverse kids.
Coloring pages of the White House, Independence Hall, U.S. Supreme Court, etc.
Children's Literature with Social Studies Themes
The Delaware Center for Teacher Education, Delaware Social Studies Education Project at the University of Delaware has developed an excellent Web resource illustrating how children's books can be used to teach social studies themes. Books are listed for grades K-2, 3-4 and 5-6 in the categories of History, Geography, Economics and Civics. Civics books are further categorized into Government, Rules and Laws, Values and Principles, Citizen's Rights and Privileges and Participation in Civic Life.
"America's Legislators Back to School Program" from the National Conference of State Legislatures
The program kicks off in September and runs throughout the school year giving legislators and teachers flexibility in scheduling classroom visits. Information is available on the NCSL Web site and includes lesson plans that outline for students the importance of representative democracy, the message that their voice counts and the valid role of special interest groups in the process. The plans complement the NCSL publication "Your Ideas Count," a student booklet used by legislators as a "leave behind" resource after their classroom visit. Teachers are invited to download the lesson plans and use them as appropriate in their classrooms. There are lesson plans for high school, middle school and elementary school classes. Many other resources are available on NCSL's America's Legislators Back to School Program Web page.
The Dirksen Congressional Center
Lesson Plans about Congress on the Web
Justice by the People (Grades 5-8)
These easy-to-use, turnkey lesson plans and student reproducibles are designed to help you teach students about the Sixth and Seventh Amendments to the United States Constitution and the critical importance of the right to trial by jury.
This site was developed to provide teachers with a full range of resources and activities to support the teaching of landmark Supreme Court cases, helping students explore the key issues of each case.
Education World Lesson Planning for Constitution Day
Education World has gathered dozens of lesson ideas and other resources to help you recognize Constitution Day, whether you teach kindergarten or college.
Getting the Word Out to the Community
Involving the Media and Legal Community
Sample Media Advisory in PDF and Word
Sample News Release in PDF and Word
Pennsylvania Bar Foundation
LEAP-Kids (Law, Education & Peace for Children)
American Bar Association
American Institute for History Education
Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society at Susquehanna University
Center for Civic Education
Bill of Rights Institute
National Constitution Center
Constitutional Rights Foundation
Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago
Youth for Justice
Archives of past PBA Celebrate the Constitution Programs and Lesson Guides
2011 Program Overview
2010 Program Overview
2007 Lesson Guide Program Overview
2006 Lesson Guide Program Overview
2005 Lesson Guide Program Overview
2004 Lesson Guide Program Overview
2003 Lesson Guide Program Overview
2002 Lesson Guide Program Overview
2001 Lesson Guide Program Overview
2000 Lesson Guide Program Overview
1999 Lesson Guide Program Overview
1999 PBA Wins National Outreach Award