About the We the People Constitution Tour
Available to Washington, DC public and public charter school 8th grade classes, free of charge, including door-to-door transportation and lunch.
This day-long tour educates students about the first three articles of the Constitution by visiting “monumental” Washington, ending at the National Archives where students view the original documents — the Constitution and Bill of Rights — that they have spent the day discussing. A Teacher Resource Guide provides curriculum-based classroom materials that extend and reinforce students’ experiential learning during the tour.
Since the 2005-06 school year, more than 18,000 students and teachers from more than 91 different public and public charter schools and educational centers in the District of Columbia have taken the We the People Constitution Tour.
Tours are conducted from November through early March.
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Optional Classroom Visit from a Ranger
Two years ago, the ranger pre-visit was an added option to those participating in the We the People Constitution Tour for DC 8th grade students. Over the years, there had been discussions about school groups attending the program, regarding prior knowledge of the Constitution. Some schools came on the tour after studying the Constitution, while others came on the tour before studying it. The ranger visit was not required, but offered as an opportunity to prepare students for the trip. The visit also let those presenting the tour have a sense of students’ comfort level with the material, in order to adapt the program to their needs.
Education Specialist Jen Epstein at National Mall and Memorial Parks offered to conduct these school visits. As a member of the We the People Constitution Tour team from the beginning, she wanted the National Park Service to play a more significant role in the program. Students on the tour stop at the Lincoln Memorial, but do not often interact with a ranger or realize they are visiting a national park. By offering the ranger visit before the tour, students hopefully are better prepared for their experience and get an introduction to the National Park Service.
The ranger visit involves a Bingo game and a PowerPoint presentation. Each student receives a Bingo card with images that will be shown in the presentation. Instructions are explained. It is full card Bingo, with 9 images of sites they will visit on the tour or places related to the Constitution. The presentation includes an overview of the tour and a review of the three branches of government. A brief explanation of the role of the National Park Service follows, then some Constitution trivia, related to national parks. Questions include “where was the Constitution written?” and “who was president of the convention?” Answers include pictures of those places or people, like Independence Hall in Philadelphia and George Washington, which may appear on the Bingo card. To win the game, a student must check off all 9 pictures and be able to then identify the places on the card. Hopefully this serves as an engaging way to share the information and prepare students for the tour.
The lesson seems to work better in smaller groups, but we can be flexible. Time usually averages 30-45 minutes. If interested, talk to Dee Hoffman when scheduling a tour.
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“We had a wonderful experience on the Tour. My Students at Roots A.L.C. really learned a lot. It put the information and book learning into another perspective, learning from the different tour guides who had a fresh outlook o the information provided. The bus driver and our tour guide were full of information on DC that was new to us all. As a proud Washingtonian I thought I was knowledgeable but even I learned some new information. I would recommend this tour to all schools and will do just that.”
–DC 8th grade teacher, Roots A.L.C., GreatNonprofits, 2016
“DCPS is a better place due to the partnership with the USCHS. My students have gone on the We the People trolley tour for the past 5 years, and each time we go, the students rave about the variety of activities, the knowledge and kindness of the tour guides and the Cousin Sams, and the experiences they take away from a mini-tour of DC. It is the first field trip I recommend to new teachers as it connects the classroom to the real world in a tangible and informative way.”
–DC 8th grade teacher, GreatNonprofits, 2015
“We the People Constitution Tour has been an outstanding program for my 8th graders at Paul Public Charter School in DC. I have attended the program four times with over 100 students. The program is well organized and each stop focuses on a branch of government that relates to our study of the Constitution. Students enjoy visiting DOA, the White House, seeing the Capitol and entering the Supreme Court. I appreciate the guides being in character because it brings an element of fun to the trip. It is an interactive tour that allows students to engage in conversation before and after a stop. The most important part is that my students recognize who the government is but also the role they can play as active citizens. I am very thankful that it is at no cost with lunch and transportation provided. Special thanks to Sandra Dee Hoffman who collaborates with me to make this happen each year.”
–DC 8th grade teacher, Paul PCS, GreatNonprofits, 2015
“The tours have literally made DC a school without walls for me and my students.”
— Liz Davis, Charles Hart Middle School, 2008
“My secondary social studies department chairs and I all agree that this is a fantastic program that all DCPS 8th graders should experience . . . I also want to thank you for the Teacher Guide, which allows teachers to teach pre trip and post trip activities that align with our 8th grade standards with regards to the teaching of the Constitution.”
— Jesse Nickelson, Director of Social Studies, D.C. Public Schools, 2008
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Videos and Recordings
Capitol Stop Video: We the People Volunteer Training Video (Youtube)
The We the People Constitution Program has been designed to complement the following National and Local Curriculum Standards:
The National Standards for Civics and Government Standards 111: How does the government established by the Constitution embody the purpose, values, and principles of American democracy?
lll.1 – How are the powers and responsibilities distributed, shared and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?
lll.2 – What does the national government do?
DC Social Studies Content Power Standards for Unit 3- The Constitution: Creation and Compromise:
8.3.3 – Explain the Constitution and its successors in implementing the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.
8.3.4 – Evaluate the major debates that occurred during the development of the Constitution and their ultimate resolutions in such areas as shared power among institutions, divided state-federal power.
8.3.6 – Describe the principles of federalism, dual sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances, the nature and purpose of majority rule, and the ways in which the American idea of constitutionalism preserves individual rights.
DC Social Studies Content Supporting Standards for Unit 3 – The Constitution: Creation and Compromise:
8.3.9 – Describe the powers of government set forth in the Constitution and the fundamental liberties ensured by the Bill of Rights.
8.3.10 – Explain the need and reasons for amendments to the Constitution.
8.4.5 – Describe the basic law-making process and how the Constitution provides numerous opportunities for citizens to partake in the political process and to monitor and influence government (e.g. function of elections, political parties and interested groups.)
Common Core Literacy Standards:
RH 8.3 – Identify key steps in a text’s description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
WHST 8.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.
SL.8.1 – Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
C3 Framework Organization Dimensions 3 and 4:
D3.1 – Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, authority, structure content and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
D4.3 – Present adaptations of arguments and explanations on topics of interest to others to reach audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g. posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports and maps) and digital technologies (e.g. Internet, social media and digital documentary).
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