Bill of Rights Institute Constitution Club FAQs
“With such little time devoted to what it means to be a member of a community, a citizen (for some), and general lack of understanding of our nation’s laws – a Constitution club is a perfect way to fill the void.”
– Elisha R., administrator, Denver, CO
Why sponsor a Constitution Club?
With funding for history and civics being cut across the board, Bill of Rights Institute has grants for enthusiastic high school teachers to bring opportunities for students to learn about America’s Founding, civic engagement, and the importance of the U.S. Constitution in their daily lives.
How much are the grants?
Grants range from $400 to $1,000 depending on the size and needs of the Constitution Club. Clubs may qualify for additional funding if there is an increase in student involvement.
What are some recommended activities for the Constitution Club?
Bill of Rights Institute gives you the flexibility to decide how your club is structured and with which activities your students engage. Here are some of the activities our clubs have done this year:
- Politics and Pizza and Constitutional Conversations
- Teachers and students gather to discuss current local, state, and national issues over pizza and other refreshments.
- Teachers use the following Bill of Rights Institute online resources:
- Teaching with Current Events (select from the following topics: Citizen Juries, Criminal Procedure and Due Process, Federalism, Freedom of Assembly and Petition, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Gun Rights, Individual Liberty, Property Rights, Separation of Powers, Student Rights) http://billofrightsinstitute.org/resources/educator-resources/headlines/
- Free Lesson Plans that focus on current events and the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the news and connect America’s Founding principles to students’ lives http://billofrightsinstitute.org/resources/educator-resources/lessons-plans/
- Due Process Central helps students understand the Fourth Amendment student rights http://billofrightsinstitute.org/resources/educator-resources/lessons-plans/due-process-central/
- Can You be a U.S. Citizen? Pass the Test!
- Show students the importance of knowing about U.S. history, government and the Constitution by having them take the U.S. Naturalization Test (all or part of it).
- Suggestions: Students can administer the test to their peers during lunch or club time to encourage participation. Students who score the highest will be entered in a drawing to win a prize (may use club funds for iTunes, Visa gift card, etc.).
- ***Possible follow up discussion topics:
- What issues have evolved or could evolve due to uninformed citizens?
- How well do local representatives know the Constitution?
- Why do people from other countries immigrate to the United States?
- ***Possible follow up discussion topics:
- Your club can even follow up by volunteering to help those in the community study for the U.S. Naturalization Test.
- Book and Film Discussion Series
- Connect Constitutional issues and themes of individual rights, the role of government, rule of law, and history to popular books and films.
- Here are some of the recommended books and films.
- ***Possible discussion questions:
- What underlying issues and themes are addressed in the book or film?
- What parallels can be drawn between the event/topic addressed in the book or film and current issues today?
- Was the book or film an accurate portrayal? Did it address the issue or issues in an appropriate way? How informative was the film? What biases were present, if any?
- Moot Court
- Club members can participate in simulated court proceedings.
- Sign up for the Bill of Rights Institute’s free resource, Documents of Freedom: History, Government, and Economics Through Primary Sources: https://www.docsoffreedom.org/account/new.
- After you sign up, go to: https://www.docsoffreedom.org/readings/the-structure-of-the-national-government/activitiesto find the Moot Court procedure description and handouts.
- Fishbowl Debates
- Teams: break into groups of 16 students, with 6 students on the Pro side, 6 on the Con side, and the rest (3-4 students) are co-judges on which team made the best argument in line with the ideals behind the Constitution along with staff — judges can ask questions.
- Students are arranged in a standing circle with four chairs in the middle. Teammates tag their team members to go in and out of the circle, with a time limit on how long 1 person can stay in the middle, which is no more than 4 minutes at a time. All members must participate. Student judges get to “stop the clock” to change the discussion topic with a question they have prepared earlier.
- Time is broken down into the following segments:
- 5 minutes to discuss rules, instructions, and resolution
- 15 minutes for groups to prepare arguments
- 35 minutes debating;
- 5 minutes for judges to deliberate and declare a winner
- Guest Speakers and Panel Discussions
- Guest speakers can be local public figures, members of Congress, state representatives, attorneys, law school students, resource officers, constitutional scholars, judges, military veterans, etc. However, clubs may not endorse any politicians.
- Topics can focus on issues surrounding civil liberties, criminal rights, student rights, or anything related to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, history, rule of law and civic engagement.
- Public Service Announcements
- Club members can select constitutional issues in the news they deem important and survey their peers to see what matters most to them. Based on survey results, the club can create a public service announcement to share with your school and/or community.
- You may even submit your PSA to the Bill of Rights Institute and be featured on our website!
- Field Trips
- Visit your state capitol, local courthouses, historical sites, libraries and museums.
How should I use club funds?
- Club funds can be used for but are not limited to:
- Food for meetings…if you feed them, they will come!
- Prizes (i.e. money, gift cards, iTunes) for winning club contests such as debates, Mock Trials, Moot Court participation, etc.
- Books, movies, magazine subscriptions
- Supplement field trip funding (buses, museum entry fees)
- Pay for speaker fees (endorsement of politicians is prohibited)
- Promotional club materials such as t-shirts, koozies, flyers, and key chains
How do I maintain and increase student participation?
- Students love food, and food brings people together! Have refreshments for club meetings. This is particularly helpful for meetings that occur before or after school.
- If your school permits, have meetings during lunch or study hall. This way the club will not have to compete with other clubs.
- Have your club host a speaking engagement for your school. Club members can plan and promote the event. To encourage attendance, they can provide food or even have a prize drawing for those who attend.