Quick, answer these questions without googling the answers! The House of Representatives has how many voting members? We elect a U.S. senator for how many years? Name one of the U.S. territories? Applicants for U.S. naturalization answer questions such as these during the civics (knowledge of U.S. government and history) portion of their test. How did you do?
According to a poll conducted in 2017, the majority of American citizens know very little about the U.S. Constitution. In fact, 37% could not name a single right under the First Amendment, only one in four could name all three branches of the government and only 33% could name any branch of the US government.
On September 17, we celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. This day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. Additionally, the week of September 17-23 is recognized as Constitution Week. During this time, Americans are encouraged to reflect on “the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be a U.S. citizen.”
What exactly does the Constitution do? According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “The Constitution creates the federal government. It says how the federal government works. It creates a government where citizens choose senators and representatives to make laws for the country. The Constitution also protects the basic rights of all Americans. It is the oldest constitution in the world still used today.”
While most of us could use a refresher course in civics, it’s also important to teach our children about their rights, as well as their responsibilities of being a good citizen. Learning together about our constitution, our history and our government is a great way to do both!
Start with some fun games that explore the functions and responsibilities of the three branches of U.S. Government. Younger kiddos will enjoy the apprentice level games, such as the “Symbols, Songs & Structures Matching Game.” Activities like the “Songs and Oaths Quiz” in the journeyperson level will challenge older children, while the master level is great for adults.
Additionally, you can make your own “Amendment Fortune Teller.” These origami style devices are always a favorite!
Complete the “Place The States” game as a family.
Finally, be sure to check out children’s books about the US Constitution, history and government from your library! Here are some to get you started.
- “We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States” by David Catrow
- “What Are Citizens’ Basic Rights?” by William Thomas
- “We The People: The Constitution of the United States” by Peter Spier
- “What Can a Citizen Do?” by Dave Eggers
- “I Pledge Allegiance” by Pat Mora
- “One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote” by Bonnie Worth
- “Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution” by Jean Fritz
- “A Kids Guide to America’s Bill of Rights” by Kathleen Krull
- “We Came to America” by Faith Ringgold
- “Marshall, the Courthouse Mouse” by Peter W. Barns