Constitution Day
September 17th

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Preamble U.S. Constitution.

In May of 2005, Congress enacted a law stating that "Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.'' For purposes of this requirement, "educational institutions'' includes but is not limited to "local educational agencies'' and "institutions of higher education'' receiving Federal funding. Section 111 requires that Constitution Day be held on September 17 of each year, commemorating the September 17, 1787 signing of the Constitution. However, when September 17 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, Constitution Day shall be held during the preceding or following week." (Federal Register)

Schools throughout America will celebrate our nation's commitment to freedom at the annual Constitution and Citizenship Day Celebration on Monday, September 18, 2006. This celebration commemorates the day in 1787 that the Constitutional Convention adjourned from its long months of deliberation at the State House in Philadelphia (now Independence Hall), after having completed the arduous and historic task of writing the United States Constitution, the oldest and most revered constitution in the world.

It will be a great day to renew our commitment to democracy by reciting the Preamble and participating in patriotic activities such as wearing red, white and blue, singing the national anthem, and learning about the history and ideals of the Constitution itself. These resources are designed to support schools in creating a meaningful learning experience for students.

Constitution Day September 17th commemorates the date in 1787 that the Constitutional Convention adjourned from its long months of deliberation at the State House in Philadelphia (Independence Hall), after having completed the arduous and historic task of writing the United States Constitution.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

The Constitution is housed at the National Archives and is viewed by visitors from all over the world. Nothing is like seeing this awe inspiring document in person, but you may see and print large-size photo copies of each page of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights online at Charters of Freedom. The Constitutional Convention was a closed meeting and the discussions were not made public or reported in the newspaper. No official minutes were made of the debates and discussions held during the meeting, but James Madison made personal notes. These notes are what historians use in analyzing what happened at this fateful meeting. You may read the transcribed notes for yourself at Access by date from a calendar showing the days the convention held meetings.

The National Archives has developed and posted some excellent resources to commemorate Constitution Day in the classroom.

One of the most interesting of the National Archives resources is 39 Signers. There is biographical information on each of the signers of the Constitution. In all, 55 delegates attended the Constitutional Convention sessions, but only 39 actually signed the Constitution. The delegates ranged in age from Jonathan Dayton, aged 26, to Benjamin Franklin, aged 81, who was so infirm that he had to be carried to sessions in a sedan chair.

In addition to the National Archives, there are many other websites with excellent information about the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution Society site is a rich resource with essays and links to primary sources from political philosophers, key concepts in the Constitution, and even images of the 55 Constitutional Convention delegates and other Founders.

Suggested Lessons and Activities


Celebrate the Constitution
This Scholastic site has background information, classroom activities, the text of interviews with Ben Franklin and others, a Constitution quiz, and much more.

Picture Books and the Bill of Rights
Acquaint students with the Bill of Rights through children's literature.

Constitution Game
This one-class period activity is often used in National Archive Training. Participants describe how the members of the Constitutional Convention might have felt as they gathered and began the arduous and memorable task of writing the United States Constitution.

The First Amendment: What's Fair in a Free Country
Young people have a profound sense of the importance of fairness. "It's not fair" is often used as a one-size-fits-all argument when a child feels victimized. Almost every day difficult issues arise related to our right to free speech and our responsibility to avoid harming someone.

Constitution for Kids
This site has sections on the following: Making the Constitution, Text of the Constitution by Article and Amendment, Biographies of the Signers, Fascinating Constitution Facts, and Articles of Confederation v the Constitution.

Class Constitution
Students will analyze the basic components and concepts of the United States Constitution and then create a "Class Constitution" to be used to maintain discipline and order throughout the school year. Students will use cooperative learning structures and civil discourse to resolve the differences that may arise. The Constitution will then be "ratified" by the parents.

The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?
How does the language of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution reflect historical events and the goals the Founders had for the future? What does the Preamble mean? After this lesson, students will explain the purposes of the U.S. Constitution as identified in the Preamble to the Constitution. They will also identify fundamental values and principles as they are expressed in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Middle School

Drafting the Constitution
This lesson, a supplement to a study of the Constitutional Convention, focuses on The Committee of Detail's draft of the Constitution submitted on August 6, 1787. The delegates debated its contents for a month before referring the document to the Committee of Style. The Committee's report, presented to the Convention on 12 September, became the Constitution of the United States. Working within groups, read the Report of the Committee of Detail and compare it with the final version of the Constitution. Chart the major differences in the two documents.

Ratification of the Constitution
Before the Constitution could become the law of the land, it had to withstand public scrutiny and debate. On September 28, Congress directed the state legislatures to call ratification conventions in each state. Article VII stipulated that nine states had to ratify the Constitution for it to go into effect. Learn about the process here.

As part of the ratification debate James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton wrote some persuasive essays to convince people to support the new Constitution and its call for a strong national government. These essays are called the Federalist Papers. Meanwhile, Patrick Henry, Elbridge Gerry, and George Mason organized the opposition to the new Constitution. Some of their writings, now called the Anti-Federalist Papers may be viewed at

What Conflicting Opinions Did the Framers Have about the Completed Constitution?
Here are some conflicting points of view of leading Framers about the Constitution. Most of the delegates argued for the adoption of the Constitution, although many had reservations about all or parts of it. The reservations of three were so serious that they refused to sign the document. The position of one of these Framers, George Mason, is explored in detail. You also will examine Benjamin Franklin's statement in defense of the Constitution.

Debate on Ratification
In this lesson students "become" one of the famous Constitutional debaters, research their arguments, and stage a debate in front of your state's legislature (the class). The class will then vote whether or not to ratify the new Constitution, based upon the success of your debate.

Preamble to the Constitution on Constitution Day
Students brainstorm the purpose of government and match those purposes to the Preamble and to the articles in the full Constitution.

Foundations of Our Constitution
These lessons help students explore documents that serve as the foundation for American democracy.

High School

Constitutional Principles
Students study the Constitution from three perspectives, its structure, its content, and its underlying philosophy.

How Does Government Secure Natural Rights?
This lesson introduces some basic ideas the Framers used in creating the kind of government they thought would best protect the natural rights of each individual and promote the good of all.

U.S. Constitution Power Grab Game
The highest law of the land in the United States is the Constitution. This is why you spend so much time learning about it in school. This activity will increase your knowledge of the Constitution and it's fundamental ideas: checks and balances, separation of powers, Bill of Rights and amendments.

Other Related Resources

National Constitution Center
Through the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988, Congress established an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization called the National Constitution Center. NCC was established to increase awareness and understanding of the US Constitution, the Constitution's history, and the Constitution's relevance to our daily lives so that all of us -- "We the People" -- will better understand and exercise our rights and our responsibilities. Here you will find a wealth of teaching resources appropriate for Constitution Day, including:

Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline
The Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline is an online experience by the National Constitution Center highlighting some of the key dates and events that mark more than 200 years of our constitutional history. These timeline entries, taken as a whole, tell the evolving story of the U.S. Constitution and the continuing role that it plays in our lives.

Interactive Constitution
This site by the National Constitution Center allows users to search the Constitution by key word, explore it by topic or review the interpretation of the Constitution by Supreme Court case.

Declaration of Independence and Acts of Courage

Students construct a definition of courage based on classroom discussion, then consider a Founding document, The Declaration of Independence and an essay about what happened to the signers in the years during and following the American Revolution.

War Making: Executive and Legislative Powers
Students will discuss the respective roles and responsibilities of the executive and legislative branches in making war?

Respecting Freedom of Speech
Students consider five controversial instances of “free speech” and participate in a discussion that attempts to draw the distinction between: private versus government action regarding speech; rights of the speakers and rights of the listener; and right to free speech and responsibility to act or speak with respect.

Investigating the Departments of the Executive Branch
Students learn about the role of bureaucracy in United States government; they then examine the history, leadership, organization, and goals of executive agencies.

Valuable Lessons
Examining the Role of Civil Liberties in the American Value System

Students explore how immigration, citizenship, due process of law, and the freedoms of speech and assembly have shaped American values throughout American history.

Constitution Quiz
Here are 15 questions about the Constitution from the New Hampshire Center for Constitutional Studies

Constitution Day
This CSU San Bernardino Library page links to resources on Constitution Day for educators.

Justice Learning Center
Here are conversations with Supreme Court justices and other learning materials for Constitution Day.

The Constitution
Here is a rich resource of primary and secondary documents related to the constitution organized around big quotations by Gilder Lehrman.

Childrens Literature for Constitution Day

Armentrout, David. Bill of Rights (Documents that Shaped the Nation)
Burgan, Michael. The Bill of Rights (We the People)
Catrow, David. We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution
Cefrey, Holly. The United States Constitution and Early State Constitutions: Law and Order in the New Nation and States
Collier, Christopher, and James L. Collier. Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention
of 1787

Coleman, Warren. Bill of Rights (New True Books)
Donnelly, Karen. Bill of Rights.
Feinburg, Barbara S. Constitutional Amendments
Findlay, Bruce. Your Rugged Constitution: How America's House of Freedom Is Planned and Built
Freedman, Russell. In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America's Bill of Rights
Fritz, Jean. The Great Little Madison _________ Shh! We're Writing the Constitution
Gerberg, Mort. The U.S. Constitution for Everyone
Hamilton, John. The Constitution (Government in Action)
Hossell, Karen Price. The United States Constitution
Hudson, David. The Bill of Rights: The First Ten Amendments to the Constitution
Jordan, Terry L. The U.S. Constitution and Fascinating Facts About It
Kallen, Stuart. James Madison
Kelley, Brent P. James Madison: Father of the Constitution
Krull, Kathleen. A Kid's Guide to the American Bill of Rights
Leebrick, Kristal. U.S. Constitution
Levy, Elizabeth. If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution
Maestro, Betsy. More Perfect Union, A: The Story of Our Constitution
Maestro, Betsy and Giulio. Voice of the People
Marcovitz, Hal. The Constitution (American Symbols and Their Meaning)
McPhillips, Martin. The Constitutional Convention
Pierce, Alan. The Constitution
Prolman, Marilyn. The Constitution (Cornerstones of Freedom)
Rivera, Sheila. Bill of Rights
Quiri, Patricia Ryon. The Constitution________________ The Bill of Rights
Spier, Peter. We the People: The Constitution of the U.S.
Stein, Conrad. Bill of Rights (Cornerstones of Freedom)
Swain, Gwenyth. Declaring Freedom: A Look at the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution
Williams, Jean Kinney. The U.S. Constitution
Weidner, Daniel. The Constitution: The Preamble and the Articles

Other Print/Electronic Resources

Center for Civic Education. We the People: Citizen and the Constitution (Elementary, Middle, or High School)

Constitutional Rights Foundation. The Constitution & the Bill of Rights (CD-ROM)

Rhodehamel, John H. Letters of Liberty A Documentary History of the U.S. Constitution