On December 15th, many places across the United States celebrate Bill of Rights Day. Intended to remind Americans of the rights granted to them by the Constitution—freedom of the press, religious rights, and due process to name a few, the potential for students to truly grasp the importance of these rights are virtually limitless. Incredibly, these 10 amendments were chosen and voted on from over 80 contenders proposed by states who ratified the Constitution in the early years of our nation. These rights served to protect our freedoms and deter government overreach, two concerns many of our founders had during the early days of our country. For more facts, view the Bill of Rights Chapter in The US Constitution & Bill of Rights by Charles Pederson, one of several books found in Big Universe’s digital library!
Here is where you can get really creative with working with your students. Check out these ideas or add some of your own below in the comments section:
- Hold a Bill of Rights rally at your school. Have students read the bill of rights (or summary of the meaning of each one) and then talk about how the Bill of Rights changed their lives.
- While working in partners, illustrate the importance of having a Bill of Rights through having them draw what life looks like without each provision or have them show examples of how the amendment protects citizens. Put the picture together and post them as a collage or mural outside the classroom.
- Compare and contrast the United States’ Bill of Rights with similar documents written around the world and/or at different times throughout history. You can start with England’s Bill of Rights (1689), France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and Greece). Which rights are similar? Are there any rights that we should adopt? Do you see where our Bill of Rights were influenced by (if it’s an older document) or influenced (if it’s a younger document) the other Bill of Rights?
- This activity is particularly great for older students in middle or high school. Pick some bills relevant to their particular contexts (e.g. freedom from illegal searches, freedom of speech) and have them debate certain issues that have been heard in the Supreme Court. For instance, is all speech free speech? Another example is should school employees be allowed to search your book bag or pockets if they think you have something? Have students search recent—relatively speaking—rulings on these issues and then present their arguments to their class or community.
- Make your own Bill of Rights. It could be things that your class feels the schools need or issues students have in local, state, or national politics. Send a copy to your principal or political representative and request to meet with them. By doing so, you may very well bring about changes that can benefit everyone.
Have a Happy Bill of Rights Day!