Eighth Graders Explore the Constitution in the Birthplace of America

History came to life for eighth grade students on November 1.

As part of their study of the Constitution, the class took a daylong trip to Philadelphia, the city where America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were written and signed.

Students toured Independence Hall, visited The National Constitution Center, and saw a live theatrical production that told the story of the Constitution. At the Center, they also explored exhibits on the 19th Amendment, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the permanent exhibit on the Constitution. Throughout the trip, students took pictures for their triptych art project. 

Middle school humanities teachers Stephen Hildreth and Tim Campbell explained that students will now work on their capstone projects: 4-6 page research papers on issues of their choosing related to the Constitution. Campbell noted that popular topics include the Second Amendment, Roe v. Wade, inherent rights endowed by the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments, and capital punishment. 

Thanks to guidance from Head Librarian Jillian McCoy, the students are off and running. "The most challenging aspect is probably learning the research process,” Campbell said. “Jillian has been incredible in building and maintaining a research-based site that has helped streamline the research process for students."

The visit to Philadelphia inspired Brielle Broomes and Eleanor Weisholz-Ditchfield to select topics on the First and 14th Amendments, respectively. 

Broomes’ favorite part of the trip was “Freedom Rising,” the live presentation about the Constitution. “It truly brought the amendments to life,” she said. “I learned more about the intentions the Founding Fathers had while writing the Constitution.”

She is now researching and writing about infringement upon students' First Amendment rights. “I chose this topic because the Constitution does not have any age restrictions, but excessively censoring students encroaches on this principle that is supposed to let individuals articulate their opinions,” she said. 

Weisholz-Ditchfield was particularly interested in The National Constitution Center’s exhibit on women’s suffrage. “It gave me more information on powerful women who helped shape how women's rights are today,” she said. “Advocating for women's rights has always been important to me.”

For eighth graders, the trip to Philadelphia offered the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers and to begin their own journey of America's history.

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