Celebrating Constitution Day

Published 4:28 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Filling the chapel at the American Village, fifth-grade students from Chelsea Intermediate took in the words of Patrick Henry and William Jackson on Constitution Day Sept. 16.

“Having something that’s alive and interesting helps them understand the content so much better,” said Shelby County Elementary coordinator Larry Darby. “This project will help them learn the importance of our citizenship.”

The day was the culmination of several weeks of focus on the Constitution, a state requirement for fifth-graders.

Students experienced visits from Abigail and John Adams, Henry Knox and Mercy Otis Warren in their schools earlier this month. The students also had the opportunity to voice their own views of citizenship.

Treva Medbery, American Village education coordinator, said the students surprised her with their responses.

“We were just amazed,” Medbery said. “The thought they had obviously put into their responses … they did a great job.

“I think the one answer we heard the most was the responsibility of the American government to protect the people … to keep us safe,” Medbery said. “When they asked to name one personal right, they basically stated the Bill of Rights. They named the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, the right to vote and equal rights.”

The program reached 2,200 students in 11 Shelby County schools. Organizers of Constitution Day set up the experience in five stages.

Students first learn about “The Call to Washington” and Gen. George Washington being called to convention. They then divide into various groups in which they serve as representatives of the state at the federal convention and hear plans for the constitution. In the third vignette, they meet Abigail Adams as she discusses citizenship in a republic before getting familiar with the Bill of Rights in the fourth segment. In the fifth and final portion of the program, students attend a federal cotillion to discover the importance of social events of the time. They will even learn a traditional cotillion dance.

Eighty-five teachers received a curriculum of three lessons on the constitution and a list of 20 games, videos and other activities to use throughout the year. The students will also be put to a citizenship challenge.

For those not at the American Village Thursday, bells rang at 3 p.m. as a reminder that the Constitution was signed 122 years ago.

DAR Constitution Day Chairwoman Phoebe Donald Robinson scheduled bells to ring from Columbiana United Methodist Church, Helena United Methodist, Montevallo UMC, Enon Baptist in Calera, Montevallo First Baptist and various businesses across the county.