Bill of Rights Day
Celebrate 230 years of the Bill of Rights — the First Ten Amendments to the Constitution — on its December 15 anniversary, or anytime throughout December.
Bill of Rights Day is Every Day
Raise awareness of the rights that have a direct impact on the quality of American life every day with conversation-starting videos featuring judges and spotlighting students. The videos are supported by an activity, a set of separation of powers discussion questions, and a selection of courtroom simulations that illuminate rights that easily can be taken for granted.
What does the concept of separation of powers have to do with the Bill of Rights?
In the five-minute Court Shorts: Separation of Powers video, federal judges make the connection between this founding fundamental and the Bill of Rights. They also offer insights into their thinking about the separation of powers and describe how healthy tensions among the branches have a stabilizing effect on democracy and preserve the individual liberties set out in the Bill of Rights. A discussion starter on separation of powers prompts viewers to think about the issues the judges present in the video.
For supporting information and examples of how the Bill of Rights is alive for teens and adults, find courtroom simulations on landmark Supreme Court cases that are applied to fictional, but realistic scenarios relevant to high school students. Need a speaker? Contact a local chapter of the Federal Bar Association and request a lawyer to lead the activity.
What freedom in the Bill of Rights is most important in your life? Why?
This 50-minute activity includes showing a three-minute, thought-provoking video.
Students Sound Off About the Bill of Rights. Supporting materials are ready for immediate use in courtrooms and classrooms with no additional research or reading required.
The video stimulates students to think about an Amendment that has a significant impact on what is important to them in their lives. It is followed by a question-formation activity that sets the stage for students to get invested and involved in critical thinking and civil discussion. The activity can be facilitated by a teacher, a federal judge, or an attorney.
- To give students experience with the vital skills of 1) forming and asking questions and 2) engaging in civil discussion on controversial issues with peers and adults.
- To give students the experience of claiming their personal stake in the Bill of Rights and the role of the courts in protecting those rights.
- Participants: High school students
- Teacher/Student Preparation: None
- Judge/Lawyer Preparation: 10 minutes reviewing the video and the guidance tips
- Activity Duration: 50 minutes
- Location: Courtroom or classroom.
- Centerpiece Resource: 3-Minute Video -- Students Sound Off About the Bill of Rights
Distribute the Handouts. Give participants a one-page list of the Bill of Rights. Because students are most likely to show interest in the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment, they should receive two handouts that focus on these two Amendments. Word clouds for the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment are springboards for students’ questions.
Explore Other Educational Activities
In addition to these assets, find Bill of Rights offerings produced by leading civics education organizations that are aggregated on the Civics Renewal Network (CRN) website. The nation's leading civics education organizations have pooled their best Bill of Rights content – more than 200 resources – on the CRN website with a wide range of other civics education topics. This one-stop, living archive presents resources that are searchable by topic, grade, resource type, standards, and teaching strategy. The Civics Renewal Network is a consortium of nonpartisan, nonprofit entities that produce free, high-quality resources for teachers. Lifelong learners also find a lot to appreciate on the site.
Another approach to studying the Bill of Rights is accessible on the National Constitution Center's Interactive Constitution. This website and mobile app stimulate critical thinking by offering a way to examine different perspectives on the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments put forward by Constitutional scholars.