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Schools observing first 'Constitution Day' today

Friday, September 16, 2005

SIKESTON -- Students in the Sikeston R-6 school district, as well as those all over the country, will receive an extra dose of American history today as schools observe the first "Constitution Day."

Under a federal law enacted last year, all public schools are required to conduct educational activities relating to the Constitution on Sept. 17, which is the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

Emily Vinson, chair of social studies at the Sikeston Junior High School, said she thinks Constitution Day is a wonderful opportunity for students.

"The Constitution is such a great piece of history, and sometimes I think it's taken advantage of or forgotten," Vinson said. "I think it's great to bring it to the forefront and that people think about it remember that."

Over the past three weeks, the eighth grade at Sikeston Junior High has studied the U.S. Constitution and the ninth grade has learned about the Missouri Constitution.

Students seem to always be interested in the Bill of Rights, specifically with search and seizure, Vinson noted.

"They like to learn about the judicial system and how it impacts them," Vinson said. "They also like to learn how a bill becomes a law and the powers of the different branches."

In addition to class time devoted to the Constitution, the entire Junior High will take advantage of different activities about the Constitution, like the Preamble, articles and amendments, available at U.S. Sen. Kit Bond's Web site, said Junior High Principal Andy Comstock.

"With any form of government, you need an informed citizen so we try to let students know what their rights are as a citizen of the United States," Comstock said.

In honor of Constitution Day, students at Sikeston Middle School will attend an assembly this morning with the school choir performing and a skit relating to the Constitution will be acted out.

Renee Henson, 7th grade department chair of social studies at Sikeston Middle School, said it's easier to address the students as a whole with an assembly rather than in an individual class, although the sixth grade has also been incorporating the geography of the United States into learning about the Constitution.

"Either way, it's important they know about the Constitution and the how the country began," Henson said.

Since the Constitution may be a little much for younger students to comprehend, most elementary schools are conducting assemblies.

Morehouse Elementary is conducting its annual citizenship/character hero rally today and using the Constitution theme by honoring special heroes of the community, said Morehouse Elementary Principal Jeff Williams. Each classroom has done specific lessons relating to the Constitution, too, he said.

And at Lee Hunter Elementary, fourth graders will dress up as the forefathers during a school production.

It's mandatory students pass a U.S. Constitution test before they graduate high school. At Sikeston the Constitution is taught in government classes at the junior level.

But Lisa Lawson, chair of the social studies department at Sikeston Senior High, also thinks it's a good idea for all students to be exposed to some aspect of the Constitution at each grade level.

"We take all of our rights for granted. I think we should dedicate more time to knowing about our Constitution," Lawson said.

Overall, Lawson said she thinks students like to learn about the Constitution, although they seem to be are more interested in amendments and how they affect them every day.

"Every citizen should know the Constitution, and in doing so, will have an understanding of how our government works and what the government stands for between ourselves -- and the government and ourselves," Lawson said.

Although Constitution Day is officially Saturday, schools have had the choice of addressing the Constitution days before or after its anniversary.

For example, Sikeston Senior High plans to show a short video over the articles of the Constitution, the writing of the Constitution and other topics at approximately 10:30 a.m. Sept. 22. The program will be aired on Sikeston Public Schools-Channel 12 so the public will be able to gain a little Constitution knowledge if they wish, Lawson pointed out.

"It's been a living document for over 200 years -- and we have lived by that and defended it," Lawson said. "The Constitution is a living and breathing document that we all should be grateful for."