Discovery Education broadcasted a Virtual Field Trip from the National Constitution Center on September 17th, which happened to be Constitution Day! This is a fantastic opportunity for your students to think critically about the Constitution and all the ways it affects our daily lives.
Here are just a few reasons why you and your students should reach through the interwebs and watch the Virtual Field Trip archive.
- It’s FREE, and no Discovery Education login is required! No paywall, no Discovery Education account needed, just register and broadcast to your classes on September 17th.
- It’s the law, so let Discovery Education take care of this for you. I’ve discovered that many educators don’t know this aspect of Constitution Day. You actually have to teach about the Constitution on September 17th if you’re a public school educator. According to PUBLIC LAW 108–447—DEC. 8, 2004, “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.” By having your students engage with the Virtual Field Trip, you’re fulfilling your duty under the law.
- The Virtual Field Trip will focus on expanding rights. Do you cringe when you hear Americans claim the Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery? History teachers know the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, but it took 100 more years for African Americans to be considered equal under the law. The Virtual Field Trip will highlight exhibits at the Constitution Center that help educate students about the struggle of expanding rights for African Americans and women, and help teachers frame these issues for students.
- Discovery Education provides lesson activities to accompany the Virtual Field Trip. Participating in the Virtual Field Trip is not about pushing play on a video while your students stare off into oblivion. Discovery Education provides lesson starters, resources for extension, and a viewing guide with questions for students to complete as they watch the broadcast.
- The Virtual Field Trip is appropriate for all grade levels. The Constitution is relevant for 5 years olds and 85 year olds, so participating in the Virtual Field Trip is not confined to certain grade levels. The topics, guests, and exhibits are relevant for all ages, and the corresponding Discovery Education lesson starters, extension resources, and viewing guides are differentiated for K-5, middle school, and high school levels.
- Marjorie Rendell is a rock star! The Virtual Field Trip will include a conversation with Marjorie Rendell, and she’s really quite impressive. Judge Rendell is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a former First Lady of Pennsylvania. She was named to the PoliticsPA list of “Pennsylvania’s Most Politically Powerful Women” in 2003. As a federal judge, she weighed in on very important matters such as a landmark death penalty decision, and seemingly more trivial issues like the relationship between the FCC and Janet Jackson’s performance at the Superbowl. More relevant to social studies education, she is a staunch advocate for civic education. She founded, with her former husband, Governor Ed Rendell, the Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics. The Rendell Center partners with Arcadia University and the National Constitution Center in an effort to boost youth interest in government and the democratic process.
- Students can experience the most popular exhibit at the National Constitution Center from your classroom–Signers’ Hall! I grew up around Philadelphia, and have been fortunate enough to visit the National Constitution Center on several occasions. I know why Signers’ Hall is considered the most popular exhibit — it’s immensely engaging. I took a selfie with my man, James Madison (I’m a James Madison Senior Fellow), and it sure was fun to compare the life-size stature of the petite James Madison to the more robust Benjamin Franklin. But the exhibit also helps students visualize some important questions about the Constitution. Students see how 55 white, elite men, drafted the Constitution. Students can think critically about the fact that the drafting of the Constitution was carried out in complete secrecy, that 55 men secretly attempted, and succeeded, in overthrowing the established government under the Articles of Confederation. Could 55 citizens do that today? Would they have the legitimacy or influence to sell it to the American people? Signers’ Hall really helps students see the miracle that occurred in Philadelphia in 1787, and question the extent to which their decisions represented all Americans.
- Many of the exhibits featured will spark creative classroom ideas. In addition to the features and exhibits I’ve mentioned, the National Constitution Center can spark all sorts of creative ideas in the classroom. One exhibit asks students to propose a 28th amendment and record their ideas on Post-It notes. What a great idea for the classroom! As we can see from the wall at the Constitution Center, some ideas are on-point, while others are good for a smile.
Read more about Discovery Education’s Virtual field trip to the National Constitution Center here. Also check out Discovery Education’s Constitution Day Content Collection with lesson materials for K-12 by clicking here.