- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005

Students from across the region and the country are talking with Supreme Court justices, discussing the First Amendment and even visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate today in preparation for U.S. Constitution and Citizenship Day.

This is the first year that schools receiving federal funding are required to teach students about the 218-year-old Constitution on or near the anniversary of its signing. The legislation making Sept. 17 the official day was introduced by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, and passed by Congress in December.

“It’s important because it helps us remember the people who fought for our freedom,” said Myuran Seharaseyoon, a fifth-grader at Rockburn Elementary School in Howard County, where Constitution Day was celebrated Wednesday.

About 180 Fairfax County elementary school students will arrive at Mount Vernon today at noon to participate in “Constitution Day 2005: Telling American’s Story.”

The history lesson, which will include actors portraying such historical figures as Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry and Harriet Tubman, will be hosted by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mrs. Cheney announced plans to celebrate Constitution Day as far back as 2001. She has since hosted the anniversary event in such places as the vice president’s residence and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Local school systems have been encouraged to create their own teaching programs, which has resulted in several innovative ideas.

In Alexandria, public school students will watch a 10-minute cable TV show made by fifth-graders at Samuel Tucker Elementary School. The student actors pretend to fall asleep and dream about writing the Constitution.

“It’s really quite good,” said Amy Carlini, a spokeswoman for the school system.

Hundreds of middle- and high-school students in the region will visit the National Archives and Records Administration to be in the audience for a live National Public Radio debate about censorship.

Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment lawyer, and Jack Valenti, the former president of the Motion Picture Association, are scheduled to participate.

About 1,300 secondary- and higher-education institutions in the 50 states and U.S. territories have registered for live broadcasts, supported by the Annenberg Foundation, which include Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer talking to Philadelphia-area students about the Constitution.

At Catholic University in the District, students will hear professor Stephen Schneck describe how the Constitution is really a mix of English liberalism, Whig constitutionalism, Protestant theology and Scottish political economics.

In addition, more than 68,000 area fifth-graders are expected to receive posters to help them learn about the Constitution. The posters were prepared by the National Education Project and paid for this year by the Xerox Foundation. The organization hopes to distribute the posters next year to fifth-graders across the county.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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