New Bill of Rights Distance Learning Programs

Bill of Rights day is this Thursday, December 15. To celebrate the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, we’re offering brand new free distance learning programs for the K-12 classroom.

Eagle puppet with staff member, Cartoon of people exercising rights

(Cartoon “The Bill of Rights and Beyond,” National Archives Identifier 24520428)

A National Archives facilitator will connect with your class for a fun and interactive experience via traditional videoconferencing equipment or through a web-based platform.

Each program has been designed to enhance content knowledge of the Bill of Rights and strengthen critical thinking skills by analyzing primary sources from the holdings of the National Archives.

Programs are available Tuesday-Thursday and must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.

For more information or to schedule your free program please email us at

Our Classroom Bill of Rights! for Lower Elementary

  • For grades K-2
  • 30-45 minutes

Guiding Question: What are rights and why are they important?

Students will be introduced to the concept of rights, discuss why rights are important, and learn about the Bill of Rights with the help of Sammy the American Bald Eagle puppet. As a class, students will create their own classroom Bill of Rights.

Superhero Bill of Rights! for Upper Elementary

  • For grades 3-5
  • 45 minutes

Guiding Question: What are rights and what would the world look like without them? How is the Bill of Rights like a superhero?

Focusing on the five freedoms of the First Amendment, students will learn how the Bill of Rights is like a superhero. Students will analyze primary source documents and photographs and determine which freedom the primary source illustrates from the Bill of Rights. Like a superhero, the Bill of Rights saves the day by providing rights for citizens.

The Bill of Rights in Real Life for Middle School

  • For grades 6-8
  • 45-60 minutes

Guiding Question: Why should we care about the Bill of Rights?

Students will focus on the rights and limitations within the Bill of Rights. They will identify Bill of Rights issues using historical scenarios from the holdings of the National Archives and learn why it is important for citizens to know their rights.

Know Your Rights! for High School

  • Grades 9-12
  • 45-60 minutes

Guiding Question: How can understanding the Bill of Rights empower civic engagement?

Students will examine three historical case studies in preparation for a roundtable discussion with a facilitator from the National Archives. Each case study will serve as an example of how the government has made decisions that violated the Bill of Rights and how everyday citizens took action to hold the government accountable and retain their rights. During the roundtable discussion, students will use their case studies to answer questions such as “Is it ever okay for the government to overstep the Bill of Rights?” and “How can a piece of parchment safeguard individual rights?”

Email us at or go to our distance learning page to learn more about these programs.

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Teaching about Pearl Harbor

Tomorrow our country remembers, and reflects 75 years later, on the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941.

Our online tool for teaching with documents, DocsTeach, lets students work with primary sources as historical evidence to understand the country at the time and the U.S. entrance into World War II.Pearl Harbor Radar Plot Activity Image

You can get students thinking about where information comes from, how it is presented, how its presentation affects understanding, and how information is used with the activity Analyzing Evidence of the Pearl Harbor Attack.

Students will use the interpretation tools available in the activity to analyze evidence collected during the Congressional investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack. It is the Radar Plot from Detector Station Opana in Hawaii, recorded on December 7, 1941. It will remind students of the surprise nature, as well as the scale, of the attack.

Day of Infamy Activity ImageThe activity Two Versions of FDR’s Infamy Speech presents students with drafts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous speech following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: an earlier typewritten draft and the final Senate copy of the address. Students can read, analyze, and contrast these two versions to see the impact of his changes to the overall message and tone of the speech.

You can find additional primary sources related to Pearl Harbor on DocsTeach.

The National Archives holds historical materials such as photos, video footage, and military records, that chronicle this occasion and the military’s history and battles. Find more resources at

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Find the National Archives at NCSS!

Teachers at the National Archives at NYCFor those of you attending, we’ll see you at the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference in Washington, DC, next month!

Please join us at any of our sessions, workshops, or special events.

Thursday, December 1

“Civil Rights, the Constitution and the National Archives” Pre-Conference Clinic

A few spaces remain! Join us for an engaging and fun-filled day exploring exhibits, learning about programs, and discovering primary sources!

Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: The National Archives Building in Washington, DC

Friday, December 2

“DocsTeach: A Primary Source-Based Teaching Tool from the National Archives”

Discover and its new features. Learn to find, customize, and create primary source-based student activities that promote historical thinking and build inquiry skills.

Time: 8:45 – 9:45 am
Room: 147A

Primary-Source Lessons for U.S. Government or History Classes

Learn powerful ways to use primary sources in your U.S. government or history class and gain access to free, short, primary source lessons online.

Time: 10:00 – 10:30 am
Room: 209C

29 Sure-Fire Ideas for Teaching Civics

Get new ideas for transforming civics education in the classroom, presented by our partners in the Civics Renewal Network and featuring National Archives resources.

Time: 1:00 – 2:00 pm
Room: 145B

Saturday, December 3

“Why a Bill of Rights? National Archives App and Resources”

Learn about the National Archives’s app, videoconference, and other resources that can help your students understand why and how we have a Bill of Rights. Includes hands-on analysis.

Time: 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Room: 203B

National Archives Evening Reception

Visit the National Archives for this special evening reception. Participants will be invited to view the Charters of Freedom, explore the museum’s latest temporary exhibit, Amending America, as well as the permanent exhibit spaces, and participate in demonstrations of new education resources available from across the agency. This is a ticketed event.

Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Location: The National Archives Building in Washington, DC

Sunday, December 4

“Engage Your Students in Decision-Making Role Play Simulations Using Documents”

Engage in a documents-based decision making simulation using and evaluating multiple sources. Discuss the theoretical context for learning through simulations. A How to Read Government Documents resource and other materials are provided.

Time: 8:00 – 10:00 am
Room: 149A

“Bringing Authentic Native American Voices into Your Classroom”

Learn simple principles, approaches and authentic methods of honoring tribal legacies in your own community and classroom no matter where you are in the United States.

Time: 8:00 – 10:00 am
Room 140A

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What is the Freedom of Information Act?

You can see this post as it originally appeared on our sister blog The FOIA Ombudsman.

FOIA InfographicEarlier this year, we told you that we’re developing teaching activities about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that can be easily integrated into the history and social studies curricula.

The tools will draw upon real-world examples that foster democracy and explain how the public can use FOIA to learn more about the Government’s actions.

Our colleagues in the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives developed this infographic to explain basic facts about the public’s rights under FOIA and what to expect during the FOIA process.

Plain language and graphics are intended to help students easily understand the basic concepts of FOIA and where they can find more information about how to ask for copies of agency records.

You can use the infographic in your teaching toolbox right now (here’s the PDF). But you can also expect to see it integrated into forthcoming teaching activities on, our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

The first activity using the infographic will explore the public’s response to the civil rights marches beginning in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. In response to FOIA requests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a number of records detailing the events that occurred in Selma.

If you have other suggestions of records from the holdings of the National Archives that could help students understand the role of records in improving understanding of the government’s actions, please comment here or join our conversation on History Hub, the National Archives’ online community for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, and open government advocates.

We look forward to hearing from you, and to announcing release of our first activity incorporating FOIA!

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Free Bill of Rights Exhibit for Your School

Our high-resolution The Bill of Rights and You posters are now available for download! Find the PDF files at

Update: Due to the high level of interest, we have no more Bill of Rights and You exhibits to distribute. Thousands will be on display in schools, libraries, museums and other community organizations soon!

We’re offering a free pop-up exhibit called The Bill of Rights and You to schools nationwide. It contains simple messages conveying the importance of the Bill of Rights, its history and implementation, and its impact today.

Bill of Rights Exhibit

Display Details:

  • Lightweight, easy to set up, and versatile
  • Use this pop-up unit in any public area—no walls necessary
  • Total assembled size is 66 1/2″ high by 32″ wide
  • Total footprint is approximately 45″ sq.
  • Includes digital educational materials
  • Delivered to your school between December 1 and 15, 2016

The Bill of Rights and You was developed by The National Archives Traveling Exhibits Services (NATES) as part of our commemoration of the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights

Download our flyer with more information here (PDF).

Presented in part by AT&T, Seedlings Foundation, and the National Archives Foundation. Distributed in collaboration with the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

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How Are You Persuaded? – Historical Election Memorabilia

Which would persuade you to vote for the candidate?

Multiple Choices with Campaign Memorabilia

A. Campaign Pin
B. Car with Children
C. Family Decoupage Plaque
D. Let’s Make America Great Again T-shirt

This question comes from our fun quiz: “How Are You Persuaded?” at

We designed this “personality quiz” as a quick class warm-up activity — and to provide a way to bring historical campaigns and memorabilia into this election season. You can guide your students through the six questions to find out how political campaigns appeal to them. Take a class poll and cast your vote. Then see which type of campaigning you collectively lean toward. Do you like gadgets and technology? Humor? Constant reminders? Or maybe that personal touch?

If your students are intrigued, you can continue to share historical campaign memorabilia with them from our Election Collection page. Topics highlight political memorabilia from Presidential campaigns from the 1850s through the 1990s and include buttons, posters, novelty items, campaign trail photos, and more!

Campaign Buttons

These pieces of campaign history come from the collections of our Presidential Libraries and were identified as part of our #ElectionCollection challenge.

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Presidential Campaign Memorabilia on DocsTeach

Share historical campaign memorabilia with your students on our new DocsTeach Election Collection page!

Campaign ButtonsWe’ve assembled a wide variety of documents, photographs, artifacts and other historical items from the holdings of our Presidential Libraries — our Election Collection.

Topics highlight political memorabilia from Presidential campaigns from the 1850s through the 1990s. Check out posters, fashion, buttons & jewelry, food & drink, and more at:

In honor of Election Tuesday, we’ll publish a new Election Collection theme every Tuesday until the Presidential election on November 8th. You can also follow along — and even share your own quirky, cool, and surprising historic memorabilia on Instagram or another social platform — in our #ElectionCollection Challenge.

These pieces of campaign history come from the collections of the Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, and William J. Clinton Presidential Libraries.

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Truman Presidential Inquiries

Today’s post comes from Mark Adams, education specialist at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO.

Historians practice their craft by asking questions about the past, then searching for evidence to construct the best answer possible. Similarly we learn history best by asking questions about the past, going to the original sources of history and evaluating what they tell us.

The lessons created in the “Truman Presidential Inquiries” project do just that. They pose a question connected to Truman’s time as president, then direct the learner to carefully consider what the evidence reveals.

Truman DBQ Website

The instructional sequence is intended to be flexible; instead of attempting to lay out what to do during single class periods, these lessons are designed to encourage the steps basic to every inquiry:

  1. Frame the inquiry – Decide what is worthy of investigation and how it will be accomplished.
  2. Go to the sources – Look for reliable sources on the topic, taking note of the diverse perspectives they reveal.
  3. Review the evidence – Evaluate the evidence to determine what answer or interpretation is best supported by this information.
  4. Communicate an answer – Share the best answer or interpretation to the original question in an interesting format.

We invite you to try out these lessons and even try creating your own. You can mix up these lessons to fit the needs of your students or the time constraints of your classroom. If the documents you find don’t satisfy your students’ curiosity, you will find that many of the valuable documents held by the Truman Library are digitized. Many of these are found in research files, organized by subject, or you can dig deeper with other archival finding aids.

During the summers of 2015 and 2016, Independence School District teachers created ten different inquiries examining a variety of issues during Truman’s presidency. These range from the use of the atomic bomb, to civil rights, to the establishment of the CIA and more. Each inquiry contains background information, an essential question for students to wrestle with, directions, and then primary source material from the Truman Library archives.

All the handouts and resources are downloadable and available for anyone to use from the Truman Library website at:

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It’s Almost Constitution Day!

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.

The National Archives in Washington, DC, is the permanent home of the original United States Constitution. Here are a few resources that you can use to talk about the Constitution with your students on Constitution Day or any time.

The Constitution on DocsTeach

Bring the Constitution to LifeHelp your students understand ideas like checks and balances, separation of powers, amendments, the Bill of Rights, slavery and the Constitution, and more through primary sources and online activities on our special Constitution page on

Students can connect primary sources that span the course of American history to the principles found in the Constitution. For example, in “The Constitution at Work” they will match historical documents to specific wording in the Constitution to understand how our government’s actions are guided by this document.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBookCongress Creates the Bill of Rights

You and your students can explore how the First Congress proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789 in “Congress Creates the Bill of Rights.” This package, including eBook, mobile app for tablets, and online teaching resources, shows how the ratification of the Constitution necessitated the creation of the Bill of Rights, and how the creation of the Bill of Rights, in turn, completed the Constitution.

Constitution eBook and iTunes U Course

Learn about the Constitutional Convention, drafting and ratifying the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the three branches of our Federal government, and how the National Archives is preserving our Constitution in a Constitution course on iTunes U. Or read “Exploring the United States Constitution,” an eBook that explores the Constitutional roots of the three branches of our government while featuring connections to historical documents in the holdings of the National Archives.

The Preamble Challenge

The National Archives is a partner organization in the Civics Renewal Network, an alliance of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations committed to increasing the quality of civics education in our nation’s schools and improving accessibility to high-quality, no-cost learning materials.

Naturalization Ceremony at the Custom House in Salem, Mass.You can Celebrate Constitution Day with the Civics Renewal Network by signing up to take the Preamble Challenge, a nationwide celebration on September 16, and access a free Teacher Toolkit.

The Challenge is a fun, easy way to fulfill the Byrd Amendment, which requires educational institutions that receive federal funding to teach about the Constitution on Constitution Day. You can even share photos of your classroom activity on Twitter or Instagram using #ConstitutionDay2016 and visit on Constitution Day to see what other classes are doing!

The Original Constitution at the National Archives Museum

Inside the Rotunda for the Charters of FreedomAnyone can visit the Constitution in person at the National Archives. And online visitors can learn about the creation and history of the Constitution, and meet America’s Founding Fathers, in the “The Charters of Freedom” online exhibit.

The Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab

Kids at Computer in the Constitution in Action Learning LabYou can plan a trip to the National Archives in Washington, DC, to participate in a Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab. School groups, families, and other groups of civic-minded individuals can take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action.

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Educator Open House in Washington, DC

If you’ll be in the DC area on Thursday, September 22, join us for our annual educator open house from 5:30–7:30 pm.

Light refreshments will be served. You can enjoy a special after-hours viewing of our exhibits, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

We’ll also provide an introduction to our:

  • classroom resources and primary sources,
  • online learning programs,
  • field trip options,
  • professional development opportunities, and
  • ideas and support for National History Day.

Come meet our National Archives education specialists and hear about the National Archives in your classroom!

Registration is requested but not required:

You can download the flyer here (PDF) to share with your education colleagues.

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