Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. Signed by 39 men known as the Founding Fathers, the document established the federal government, outlined fundamental laws and guaranteed certain basic rights for its citizens (Bill of Rights).
To celebrate the 230th anniversary of the signing, ask students to help create a constitution for your afterschool program. The constitution will govern program activities and support overarching rules, policies and procedures.
- To begin, watch this BrainPOP video to help students understand the meaning behind the U.S. Constitution and to learn concepts like federalism and popular sovereignty. Then, review existing afterschool program objectives, rules and procedures.
- Divide students into groups of two or four. Have them designate a spokesperson within each group.
- Ask students to brainstorm 3-5 “laws” they feel should be included in the program constitution. Laws should be fair, reasonable and support existing program goals and values. Have them write each law on an index card.
- Once finished, place each index card into a basket or box.
- Next, each group will vote on whether or not a law should be included in the constitution. Read each law aloud, and give the groups 1-2 minutes to discuss their choice. When the time is up, call on each group one by one to cast its vote. The spokesperson will answer either “yea” or “nay”.
- Tally the responses for each law. The response with the majority of votes determines whether the law will make it into the constitution.
- Once the laws have been chosen, review and edit them with students. When reviewing, ask the following questions:
- Will the chosen laws help us work together?
- Are the laws fair to everyone?
- Are the laws realistic?
- Do the laws support program goals and values?
- Repeal or change laws based on feedback from the review. If needed, narrow the list to five laws.
- Create a poster from poster board entitled, “Our Program Constitution.” Once students have agreed upon the five laws, write them on the poster.
- Have everyone read the standards aloud together and then all must sign in agreement. Display the poster in a spot where students can easily see and review the constitution.
While this activity is designed to celebrate the formation of the U.S. Constitution, it’s also a great opportunity to teach students the importance of having and adhering to rules. Rules provide a sense of order for students, boost their confidence and prepare them for the real world. In return, rules also help programs run smoothly, guide appropriate behavior and ensure mutual respect.
During the activity, foster open dialogue about the importance of having rules to maintain order at home, at school, in their community and in their country. Ask students when rules are appropriate, who enforces rules and what happens when rules are not followed. As a result, students will feel responsible and empowered to ensure the program constitution is understood and followed by everyone.
For other activity ideas, check out Celebrating Constitution Day - Grades 3-5.