Reflections on Constitution Day 2014

“An attorney’s work must be pretty cool.”
Reflections of a fourth-grader on Constitution Day.


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This fourth-grader’s perspective on being an attorney resulted from the Constitution Teach-in by 200 judges, lawyers, law students, and law school staff in celebration of the 225th anniversary of the U. S. Constitution.  The volunteer instructors taught 300 classes throughout Utah on and around Constitution Day, September 17. 

This was the third year of the teach-in sponsored by the Bar’s Civicsimage 2 Education Committee.  Co-chair Benson Hathaway said, “We are so pleased that the number of volunteers increased by one-third and that they taught half again as many classes as last year.  We’re looking forward to our biggest year yet in 2015, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta—the world’s most enduring symbol of the rule of law.”

 

Volunteers used lesson plans developed by the committee, included mock trials (Cinderella vs. the Step Sisters for elementary schools) or employed their creativity (one volunteer administered the test required for citizenship).
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Teachers had these comments about the classes:

“My instructor brought a replica of the constitution and played a very fun game with the students. The students were engaged the entire time and even stayed after Text Box: Lt. Governor Cox congratulates Hawthorne 3rd graders   for their recitation of the Preamble on Constitution Dayto talk to him. I would have him come back every year.”
“It got the students thinking about the rule of law and their personal responsibility to uphold the law.”

“My class enjoyed the instructor so much they wrote an article for the school paper about how they celebrated Constitution Day.”

“My students absolutely loved this! One class had a lawyer do the simulation and my other class had a lawyer do more of a lecture. Both were very enlightening for the students, and when I asked them about it during the next class they remembered a surprising amount. I will definitely use this again next year.”
image 4“My students loved the mock trial. They learned so much about procedure and about the law.”

“I think it is great that we are getting professionals into the classrooms; students need to meet and get to know real people who work in these fields.”

“I really liked how the attorney who talked to my class gave the students great examples of how checks and balances work and about some of the responsibilities of each branch of government.”   

“We loved it!!!”

Text Box: Thank-you note to Kent Hansen

 

And the volunteers seemed to enjoy it as much as the kids:

“The students were wonderful.  They were bright and eager to participate.  We had a lot of fun, even when the discussion got heated.  There were no disciplinary issues.  I enjoyed spending time in the classroom with them.” 

“I look forward to this more than any other Bar-sponsored event during the year.  Please keep it going.”

“Teaching the classes is a hoot.  I have enjoyed nudging the kids with good, fun history about the Constitution and America.  Great interactions.  Much fun.”

 image 5Bar President Jim Gilson said “We plan on continuing this important dialogue about the rule of law with Utah students by sponsoring Magna Carta essay and video contests.  We will present student awards at the traveling exhibit Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015 as it makes stops throughout Utah.”  The exhibit includes images of documents, books, and other objects from Library of Congress collections that illustrate Magna Carta’s influence throughout the centuries and explain the document’s history.  See www.utahbar.org for details.

Responding to an ABA sponsored survey that indicated that only 38% of Americans could name all three branches of our government (33% couldn’t name any branch), the Bar created the Civics Education Committee to develop and promote a one-hour course to be taught in Utah schools.  In 2005, Congress designated September 17 as a day to hold educational programs for students on the Constitution.  Teachers or volunteers who wish to participate in the 2015 Constitution Teach-in should write to civics@utahbar.org.

Special thanks to Utah Commission on Civic & Character Education Chair Michelle Oldroyd and Utah State Office of Education K-12 Social Studies Specialist Robert Austin.