Category Archives: constitution

I Was in the Room Where it Happened!

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 2.54.13 PMThis week’s post comes from Dr. Robyn Kelso. Robyn teaches senior American Government, American National Government, and International Relations at Eudora High School in Eudora, KS. Robyn enjoys learning across social studies and am curious about the world as a whole.  Robyn also enjoys reading and working on her hobby cattle farm.


Those who are familiar with the headline . . . yes, it is a shameless steal from Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. I was lucky enough to have stars align and enable me to take three different professional development fellowships this summer. I felt this lyric particularly applied for my first trip as part of the Supreme Court Summer Institute through Street Law in Washington DC.  From content learning to lesson plans and a visit to the Supreme Court to hear opinions announced during the last days of the term, this was a terrific opportunity all the way around.

My takeaways from this experience included several things:

Continue reading I Was in the Room Where it Happened!

Bill of Rights Day 2015

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Okay . . . admit it. How many of you didn’t know that today is Bill of Rights Day?

Come on, it’s okay.

Yes, I see those hands.

I first ran across Bill of Rights Day a few years ago. I consider myself a person who keeps up with this sort of thing but I had no idea. Back in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 to be Bill of Rights Day, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. So it’s been around a while.

And we probably need to make a bigger deal out of this than we are. Civic literacy and understanding of the nuance embedded in the first 10 Amendments seems a bit low right about now.

FDR observed in 1941 that Continue reading Bill of Rights Day 2015

‘Hamilton’ Our history fix on Broadway

It’s been getting a lot of press, the hip-hop telling of the man who set up the United State’s financial system. Before this musical most Americans could maybe recall that Alexander Hamilton was the one killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr or figure out that he’s the guy on the $10 bill (for now, at least), but as Hamilton moves to Broadway we might learn to give this founder another look.

Flocabulary has been putting a hip-hop spin on history and other school subjects for years and School House Rock taught through song before that, but there’s something to be said for how deep Lin-Manuel Miranda took the history in this one. If you teach early U.S. history or government I would strongly recommend giving this a listen – it breathes a lot of life into the era and the historical figures who populated it without glossing over their faults (and the language can get a bit salty).

Our high school did an outstanding performance of 1776 last year, their production of Hamilton can’t come soon enough for me.

Check out NPR’s First Listen: Hamilton for the entire audio.

Law Related Education: Celebrating Freedom and the Constitution

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For the past several years I have had the privilege of serving on the Law Related Education Committee of the Kansas Bar Association. This committee is made up of law professionals with a passion for providing resources that will improve teacher and student understanding of the law and their rights. I enjoy meeting with this group, not just because they are intelligent and influential people, but because they really do want to help.

State statute requires that schools grades kindergarten through eight use five consecutive school days “to educate students about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values on which this country was founded.” (Kansas Statutes 72-1129) The federal government has designated September 17th as Constitution Day and that all schools “shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution.” (Federal Register May 2005)

The Honorable Joseph Pierron and other judges and attorneys have created classroom presentations that they deliver upon request, presentation titles include: “You be the judge” “What is the Constitution?” “What do judges do?,” “The Boston Tea Party” “King George/George Washington” and more. To inquire about the possibility of getting one of these speakers or Celebrate Freedom packets contact your local bar association office or Anne Woods (awoods@ksbar.org) at the Kansas Bar Association

The Kansas Bar Association through the Law Related Education Committee have created some great resources that can be used for these occasions.

  • Law Wise is a newsletter intended to be a fun and informative resource for teachers and their students in elementary school through high school. Sign up for a free Educator account and select Law Wise to receive email notifications
  • For the Record is written primarily for Middle School students and covers a wide variety of issues middle school students might be dealing with.
  • On Your Own is written for high school student and those about to go out “on their own.” This booklet/webpage is intended for general informational purposes only. It does not attempt to provide legal advice. Legal advice should come only from an attorney of your choice who can take into account all of the factors relevant to your particular situation.
  • Law Related Education Resource Center (ESU) is maintained by the Teachers College Resource Center for circulation by Kansas teachers, lawyers, and other law-related educators. DVDs and videos may be checked out for two weeks while most print matter may be used for one month. There is no charge related to the use of these materials.
  • Public Information Pamphlets on Additional Topics are provided by the Bar Association with no charge. Print copies do have associated costs.

In addition every year the Committee selects an educator to scholarship to the Supreme Court Summer Institute in Washington DC if the applicant is accepted the committee will pay expenses for the trip.

As you prepare for September 17th and Celebrate Freedom Week consider using these great resources.

Don Gifford
KSDE