This week students at Westside Elementary School are learning about the leaders, documents and origins of the United States of America as the nation marks 225 years since the Constitution was signed.
Like many of her colleagues, second grade teacher Heather Jacobs orchestrated hands-on lessons to demonstrate the challenges the Founding Fathers faced, including writing documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence with quill and ink.
After lunch on September 18, Mrs. Jacobs’ students used brightly colored feathers and small cups of black paint to replicate the endeavor.
“Aren’t you glad we don’t have to do all our work like this,” she told the group of about 20 pupils struggling to write the second paragraph of the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all me are created equal ...”
That morning, the class heard much about life in the late 18th Century: how it was a world without pens and pencils, when paper was unlined and yellow, where nations were ruled by kings and queens, as opposed to presidents and legislators; and when John Hancock was not slang for someone’s signature, but a real man who had the most elaborate signature on the Declaration of Independence.
Mrs. Jacobs said the intent of the lessons are to introduce the children to concepts they will learn more about later in school. They were curious, however, to know when the country was formed and if the Founding Fathers were still alive today.
Other activities this week include learning about American symbols, like the Statue of Liberty and the American flag, including the significance of the Stars and Stripes that adorn it.
“They’re not just on there because they’re pretty,” said the 13-year teacher.
Another teacher, Angela Callahan, had her students separate into three groups representing the branches of government, and challenged them to solve a few problems together.
She said the purpose was to demonstrate how difficult it can be for a government like ours, organized under the Constitution into three equally powerful branches, to agree on solutions.