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America Celebrates Constitution Day
Schools and federal agencies take time out to learn about the U.S. Constitution and our freedoms.
By Tiffany Chaparro

Pledge of Allegiance
Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a classroom.
(Photo: Comstock Images/PictureQuest)
Friday, September 16—This year, Constitution Day will not go unnoticed. Thanks to a law passed last year, federally funded schools nationwide will teach about the U.S. Constitution every September 17, which is the date in the Constitution was signed in 1787.

U.S. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia added the Constitution Day clause to the 2005 federal spending bill. More people need to learn about the Constitution and its contents.

"It's the greatest Constitution that was ever written. It affects your liberties, everything you do, everything your parents do, and everything I do. It's so important to learn everything about our Constitution and to honor it and revere it," Byrd told Scholastic News Online.

The Constitution contains the basic laws of the United States in its seven articles and 27 amendments. The new mandate says that all schools receiving money from any federal agency must teach or have programs about the Constitution. Schools can choose how they want to celebrate the nation's founding document.

Because September 17 falls on a Saturday this year, most schools are celebrating today. In Colorado, Constitution Day activist Andy McKean will be promoting the day throughout the state.

"We need to get our people to understand the fight that occurred to get this country established," he said. "If you don't know your rights . . . you're doomed to be a passive recipient of what happens."

Ted Donohue, assistant principal of Glenwood Springs Elementary School in Colorado, said he plans to read the preamble of the Constitution to students today, and define some of the language used in it. Teachers will also include information about the Constitution in their lessons.

In Vermont schools, teachers and planning teams are working to incorporate Constitution-related themes into their regular studies. For example, principal John Barone of Colchester Middle School said at least one class would discuss how American Indians developed their own type of self-government. Colchester students have also been encouraged to wear red, white and blue today. And school officials have planned to play patriotic music throughout the day as a sign of support for democracy and the Constitution.

Byrd said he hopes his new law will cause people to read the Constitution. The Senator carries a copy of the document with him wherever he goes.

"I hope that kids understand that in this country, everything that we do in everyday life is touched upon by the Constitution of the United States," Byrd said. "It's very short and it's easy to read and people know all too little about it. I think it's good for young people of this day to start learning about the Constitution."



Celebrate Constitution Day
By Kate Tuohy

Last year, an estimated 800,000 people visited the original copy of the United States Constitution on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Completed over 200 years ago, on September 17, 1787, it is the oldest national constitution in the world still in use!

The U.S. Constitution is an important document that defines and outlines the basic laws and rights of American citizens. It also sets limits on what the government can and cannot do.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd thinks that every American should understand the importance of the Constitution. With that in mind, he helped get Congress to pass a bill making September 17 of every year Constitution Day. President Bush signed it into law in December 2004.

September 17 falls on a Saturday this year, so students from across the country will participate in the first official Constitution Day on Friday, September 16, 2005.

"I hope that schools will develop many different and creative ways to enable students to learn about one of our country's most important historic documents. The Constitution protects their freedoms and will impact all facets of their lives," says Byrd, who carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket.

Check out our Scholastic News Special Report to learn more about the United States Constitution!

For teachers, we have lesson helpers, reproducibles, and activities to make learning the Constitution easy and fun for students.


For more information about Constitution Day, visit the National Constitution Center's Web site at www.constitutioncenter.org.