In 1989, a flea-market shopper purchased a painting for $4. While
inspecting a rip in the artwork, the new owner discovered an amazing
surprise folded inside the frame: an original broadside of the
Declaration of Independence! It is this rare document (now owned
by Norman Lear, entertainer and philanthropist) that is now making
its way across the United States as part of the Independence Road
Trip. Scholastic is proud to sponsor this project in the hope
that it will inspire young Americans to exercise their rights
and become active citizens.
Use this special News In-depth and lesson plans that follow to usher some of that inspiration into your own classroom. The reproducibles and activities will help you make connections between the "People's Document" and your curriculum.
The "Right" Stuff
Materials: PDF reproducible Create a Bill of Rights
Curriculum Connections: citizenship, writing
Objective: Students will explore the issue of "rights"and the tough job of creating a nationby brainstorming their own list of rights for a fledgling country.
Getting Ready: Be sure all students have had an opportunity to hear and/or read the Declaration of Independence. Discuss what this important document does and does not do: By establishing that the Colonies were free and independent, the Declaration of Independence laid the groundwork for the new nation.
The Declaration also stated that "all men are created equal," a premise that would become the backbone of the United States government. But what, exactly, were those free and equal citizens entitled to? That question would be answered a decade later, with the creation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Explain that students will imagine themselves in the role of founding "fathers" and decide what rights they would give a new nation's citizens.
What to Do:
Have students compare finished lists to see what rights and freedoms others included. Students will undoubtedly find important rights on classmates' lists that they forgot to include on their own. Let these oversights segue into a discussion of how the Constitution is a living document that adapts to our changing society. Explain that many amendments have been added to the Bill of Rights (for example, giving women and African-Americans the right to vote) as society deemed them important. Ask: Is this ability of the Bill of Rights to change good or bad? Why?
Thomas Jefferson: Defender of Democracy
Materials: reproducible Thomas Jefferson: Defender of Democracy
Curriculum Connections: reading a time line, American history, math
Objective: Students will become more familiar with the life and work of Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence.
Getting Ready: After reading the Declaration of Independence,
discuss its style. What gives this document its ability to inspire
awe in Americans more than 225 years after it was written? Ask
students to name the chief creator of the Declaration.
What to Do:
[Answers to reproducible: 1. 33; 2. 1801; 3. U.S. Secretary of State; 4. He created the University of Virginia; 5. 100 years; a century; 6. 1772; 7. Virginia.]
What Is Freedom?
Objective: Students will explore various definitions of and quotations about freedom, then define freedom in their own words.
Curriculum Connections: language arts, point of view, citizenship
Getting Ready: Ask a student volunteer to look up the word "freedom" in a dictionary. Write the definition on the board, and ask students what they might add to it.
What to Do:
1. Share with students some or all of the following quotes about freedom:
2. Ask students which, if any, of the quotes best summed up freedom for them. Why? Are there any quotations with which students disagree?
3. Have students learn more about the people who made these thought-provoking remarks. Who were they? Why would they have been interested in the issue of freedom?
Extension Activity: Use these and other freedom sayings to create a 2003 freedom calendar on 11" x 17" paper. For each month, include one freedom quote and a freedom-related student illustration (symbols of freedom, such as the Statue of Liberty, work well). Distribute to members of the school community.