Constitution Day Scavenger Hunt with 60-Second Civics

Fifty-five delegates attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Most students can identify George Washington or James Madison. But what about the 53 other delegates? Who were they? How did they influence the convention? In this lesson, students will familiarize themselves with the delegates by listening to a series of 60-Second Civics podcast episodes devoted to the Framers of the Constitution.

Grades 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Foundations of Democracy
Audio

The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

“Father” of Our Country v. “Father” of the Bill of Rights

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, delegates analyzed, argued, and debated the new Constitution. George Mason, a Virginian, pleaded with the fifty-five delegates for the inclusion of a list of guaranteed rights. Mason (sometimes referred to as the “father of the Bill of Rights”) wanted the new Constitution to guarantee freedom of speech, press, and religion, and the right to a fair jury trial. He also wanted to include the freedom to vote.

The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 3: Creating the Office of the Presidency

This lesson focuses on the arguments over the various characteristics and powers of the office of president as debated at Constitutional Convention of 1787. By examining the views of delegates as recorded in James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, students will understand the arguments of those who supported either a strong, independent executive, or a very limited and highly controlled executive. Students will also see why, in the end, the delegates compromised.

Grades 8, 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Essays

Ratifying the Constitution

This lesson introduces students to the vigorous debates between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalists surrounding the ratification of the Constitution that took place in the state conventions.

In the state ratification conventions, delegates argued the wisdom of adopting the Constitution. Elected specifically to serve in these conventions, they came from a range of backgrounds, from the very elite and highly educated, to those of humbler birth and station. State delegates grappled with questions about the nature of democracy, the distribution of wealth and power in society, the rights of individuals and minority groups, and the role of dissent in a republic.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Essays

Should the Electoral College Be Reformed?

This deliberation has students view C-SPAN video clips to learn about the history and Constitutional background of the Electoral College. Students will also explore arguments for and against reforming the Electoral College. Using this information, students will develop and argue their position on the question: Should the Electoral College Be Reformed?

The Constitutional Convention

 In this lesson, students will use C-SPAN video clips to examine the founding principles that emerged from the Constitutional Convention as well as hear about some of the people who participated. Students will use this information to analyze the role the compromise played in the creation of the Constitution.

Grades 7-12
Federal Government
Media

The Constitutional Convention: Slavery and the Constitution

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students at the Constitutional Convention and asks them to engage in the most problematic issue the framers faced: how to deal with slavery. Although most delegates believed slavery was deplorable, it was so deeply entrenched that any attempt to abolish it would likely keep several states from approving the proposed Constitution. By confronting this issue, students will experience for themselves the influence of socioeconomic factors in the political arena, and they will see how political discourse is shaped by arguments based on morality, interest, and pragmatic considerations, often intertwined.

The Constitutional Convention: Reform or Revolution?

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students at the opening of the Constitutional Convention and asks them to deliberate on the overarching question delegates faced at that moment: Should they propose alterations to the Articles of Confederation, or should they construct an entirely different plan that would supplant the Articles? By engaging with this momentous issue, students will understand the enormity of the “revolution in favor of government” that occurred in 1787.