About Constitution Day
Constitution Day became a national observance in 2004, when Senator Robert Byrd passed a bill designating September 17 as the day for citizens to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and learn more about our founding document. Senator Byrd once said, "Our ideals of freedom, set forth and realized in our Constitution, are our greatest export to the world." He added the Constitution Day clause to his 2004 federal spending bill because he believed that all citizens should know about their rights as outlined in the Constitution. This clause mandates the teaching of the Constitution in schools that receive federal funds, as well as federal agencies.
In honor of Constitution Day, all educational institutions receiving federal funding are required to hold an educational program pertaining to the U.S. Constitution; this year, a special focus of Constitution Day will be the celebration of the signing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is the foundation of American liberty, securing our most fundamental rights and freedoms—from the freedom to speak, assemble, and practice our faith as we choose, to the protections that ensure justice under the law. For over 200 years, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution have served as a basis from which civil society could grow and flourish.
Constitution Day at Museum
Join the National Constitution Center for the nation’s best Constitution Day celebration! We are the place to turn to fulfill your education requirements—at the museum and in the classroom!
This Constitution Day, the museum will honor of the 150th ratification of the 13th Amendment, and the beginning of the reconstruction era—a turning point in Constitutional History. On September 17, the National Constitution Center will host activities and discussions—both at the museum, and on our website—that celebrate not only the founding of our nation, but the Constitution’s continuing story of expanding freedom, creating the story of “We the People.”
Admission to the museum is FREE on Constitution Day, courtesy of the PNC Foundation. Book your group visit today! Call 215-409-6800.
8:30 a.m., Front Lawn
To kick off the day, National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeff Rosen will lead students in a rousing reading of the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States on the museum’s front lawn.
Flag Raising Ceremony
9 a.m., Front Lawn
Join the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution for a patriotic flag raising ceremony!
Eighteenth Century Games
9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Front Lawn
Try your hand at graces, hoop and stick, nine pin, and other games popular during the Revolutionary era.
Constitution Day Partner Fair
9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Grand Hall Lobby
The National Constitution Center is joined by outstanding partner organizations, many of whom will be at the museum on September 17!
I Signed the Constitution
9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Grand Hall Lobby
Visitors can check out our giant version of the U.S. Constitution and sign their names alongside Washington, Franklin, and Madison.
9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Grand Hall Overlook
Visitors can take part in arts and crafts projects, join in a calligraphy demonstration, and learn the copperplate script used to pen the Constitution.
Decoding the Document: The 13th Amendment
9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Richard and Helen DeVos Exhibition Hall
Guests can join our education staff for a closer look at a rare copy of the 13th Amendment. The document, which was ratified 150 years ago, ended slavery in our nation, and began the reconstruction era—a turning point in Constitutional History.
Judge Chats: A Closer Look at the Courts
Throughout the Day, Bank of America Family Theater
Students and teachers can attend one of these great sessions with real judges, where they will have the opportunity to speak with experts on the interpretation of law and about how the Constitution can affect everyday life.
American National Tree Induction Ceremony
10 a.m., Richard and Helen DeVos Exhibition Hall
Every year the museum adds a new individual to the American National Tree. The Tree, a popular exhibit inside The Story of We the People, tells the stories of more than 100 Americans whose actions have helped shape the Constitution over time. This summer, the National Constitution Center, in partnership with Scholastic Inc. and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, will hold a student essay contest to determine the 2015 inductee—among the nominees will be Americans who worked to bring about reconstruction after the American Civil War, which was a major turning point in American History.
Separation of Powers show
10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., Grand Hall Overlook
This high-energy show explores how our Constitution limits government by separating powers—a truly revolutionary idea! Take part in an educational tug-of-war game between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches while learning about checks and balances.
Pass the Citizenship Test show
10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., Grand Hall Overlook
Do you know what it takes to become an American citizen? During this engaging program, you’ll learn about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and gain insight into our country and our freedoms.
10:30-11:30 a.m., F.M. Kirby Auditorium
Every year 50 immigrants from across the globe take the Oath of Allegiance to officially become citizens of the United States. The ceremony will be presided over by United States Federal Judge John R. Padova.
Bill of Rights show
10:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:45 p.m., Richard and Helen DeVos Exhibit Hall
Who wants to be a “Bill”-ionaire? In the museum’s fast-paced game show, visitors face off in a fun competition testing their Bill of Rights knowledge while an engaging host reveals the real deal about our amendments and freedoms.
Student Town Hall with Justice Breyer
12 p.m., Kimmel Theater
Students will meet Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a person who works with the Constitution every day. Justice Breyer will speak about the ins and outs of his job, and answer students’ questions.
The Constitution’s Birthday Celebration
12:30 p.m. – 1:15 p.m., Overlook
During the lunch hour, the museum offers cake (shaped and designed to look like the Constitution) and invites visitors to sing along to Happy Birthday and other favorite tunes to celebrate the anniversary of the Constitution’s signing. This celebration is complete with confetti and appearances by the museum’s mascots Donnie the Donkey and Ellie the Elephant. This year we will be joined by President Lincoln, as we not only celebrate the Constitution’s birthday, but the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment—the document that ended slavery!
The Court and the World: Book Talk with Justice Breyer
2 p.m., F.M. Kirby Auditorium
Join U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer for a special moderated conversation about the increasingly global scope of the work of the high court. Justice Breyer’s third book as a justice is titled The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities.
Justice Breyer will also discuss American law as it applies in international contexts including commerce, copyright, human rights, treaty obligations and securities fraud.
For more details about the Center’s Constitution Week festivities, visit constitutioncenter.org/constitution-day.
CONSTITUTION DAY IN THE CLASSROOM
New Interactive Constitution: Coming Soon!
Keep following us for news about our new Interactive Constitution, made possible by the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation! It will be the best interactive, non-partisan Constitution on the Web. The Interactive Constitution will commission the leading conservative, classical liberal, and liberal scholars in America to write explainers about all provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The scholars will write a common statement about the settled law and history relating to each constitutional provision, as well as separate statements making their distinctive perspectives clear. The Interactive Constitution will also be developed in partnership with the College Board, which recently announced requirements that all SAT and AP U.S. History and Government test takers study the Founding Documents. For more information on this significant new partnership with the John Templeton Foundation and what it means for the future of National Constitution Center programming, please click here.
Watch Constitution Hall Pass 2015: Coming Soon!
Tune in to view our special Constitution Day episodes of the fun and fascinating video lesson series Constitution Hall Pass. Students and teachers can even chat live with our staff, weekday, September 10 through 23, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
Watch Previsous Constitution Day episodes:
- Constitution Day 2012: The Presidency
- Constitution Day 2011: Freedom of Expression
- Constitution Day 2010: The Judicial Branch
Lesson Plans, Games, and Activities
- Founding Fathers Biographies
- Separation of Powers
- The Founders’ Library: Thinking as a Founding Father
- To Sign or Not to Sign: The Ultimate Constitution Day Lesson Plan
- Amendment Cootie Catchers
- Bill of Rights Bingo
- Preamble Puzzles
- Which Founder Are You?