We the People Initiative

Featured Lessons | Featured Websites | About the Image

Preamble to Constitution

Join EDSITEment in support of the National Endowment for the Humanities We the People initiative, announced by President Bush in the fall of 2002. With over one-hundred EDSITEment lessons focused on some aspect of U.S. history, literature, or culture, and with panel-reviewed websites providing unprecedented access to primary documents and artifacts, EDSITEment offers you and your students a wealth of resources for studying the historical origins and core ideas and values of the American Republic.

For example, The Federalist Debates: Balancing Power Between State and Federal Government provides students with a richly detailed historical context for considering what has been and continues to be a central debate in American political life: how should power be distributed between states and the federal government? As do many other EDSITEment lessons on U.S. history, this lesson involves direct engagement with primary historical texts and other documents and artifacts central to the American story. Also providing historical background for framing topics for the We the People initiative are such EDSITEment lessons as 1) The Constitutional Convention: What the Founding Fathers Said; 2) The Constitutional Convention: Four Founding Fathers You May Never Have Met 3) Jefferson and Franklin: Revolutionary Philosophers; 4) Jefferson and Franklin: Renaissance Men 5) The Boston Tea Party: Costume Optional? 6) Revolutionary Tea Parties and the Reasons for Revolution. In addition, these lessons provide teachers with useful tools, such as interactive timelines and downloadable graphic organizers that can help students to comprehend the concrete details of American history.

EDSITEment lesson plans designed for younger students also raise challenging questions about the founding principles of this nation. For example, lessons such as Declare the Causes: The Declaration of Independence, and The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union? bring alive the principles of democratic self-government established in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, and can be adapted for older students engaged in the study of primary documents. In Balancing Three Branches at Once: Our System of Checks and Balances, students analyze primary documents to demonstrate the challenges facing those forming a new government. Finally, the continuing significance of the founding principles of the American Republic can be explored in lessons such as The First Amendment: What's Fair in a Free Country, which helps students to learn about individual liberty and responsibility through the study of Supreme Court cases.

After exploring some of EDSITEment's U.S. history lessons your students may want to try online research through EDSITEment websites such as American Memory Project the Oyez Project, and the Digital Classroom of the National Archives and Records Administration, which provide unprecedented access to historical documents and electronic archives. These and other EDSITEment-reviewed resources on U.S. history and culture are great places for students to discover the people who contributed to the principles of democratic self-government and the roles they played in our nation's history. Students will then have a much clearer sense of who “We the People” are.

Online Primary Documents on EDSITEment web sites for reference: Declaration of Independence
Digital Classroom, NARA support

U.S. Constitution
Avalon Project, Yale University Law School

Avalon Project at Yale Law School

Emancipation Proclamation
Digital Classroom, NARA

Gettysburg Address
American Memory Collection, Library of Congress

EDSITEment Lesson Plans on American History, Government, Literature, and Culture:

Grade Level 9-12

Attitudes Toward Emancipation

Congressional Committees and the Legislative Process

 Critical Ways of Seeing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in context

Cultural Change (Woman Suffrage Movement)

Dramatizing History in Arthur Miller's The Crucible

Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce and the Unreliable Biographer

Evaluating Eyewitness Reports (Chicago Fire, & Civil War Diary)

Families in Bondage

Folklore in Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

George Washington: The Living Symbol

Hawthorne: Author and Narrator

Images at War (World War II posters from Library of Congress)

Jazz and World War II: A Rally to Resistance, A Catalyst for Victory

Life on the Great Plains

 Lincoln Goes to War

Mark Twain and American Humor

Ordinary People, OrdinaryPlaces: The Civil Rights Movement

Other Worlds: The Voyage of Columbus

 Perspective on the Slave Narrative

The Red Badge of Courage:A New Kind of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Realism

Regulating Freedom of Speech (Looking at applications of the constitution)

Scripting the Past (Exploring Women's History through personal accounts)

The Secret Society and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby


Voices of the American Revolution

Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes:Poems for a Democracy

Walt Whitman's Notebooks: The Sweep of the Universe

Was There an Industrial Revolution? New Workplace, New Technology, New Consumers

Was There an Industrial Revolution? Americans at Work Before the Civil War

Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion (Constitutional crisis & Washington's diary)

What Portraits Reveal (Presidential portraits)

Who Was Cinque?

Worth a Thousand Words: Depression Era Photographs

Grade Level 6-8

The Boston Tea Party: Costume Optional?

Colonial Broadsides and the American Revolution

Colonial Broadsides: A Student-Created Play

The Constitutional Convention: Four Founding Fathers You May Never Have Met

The Constitutional Convention: What the Founding Fathers Said

Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce and the Unreliable Narrator

Eve of the Civil War: Factory vs.Plantation in the North and South

The Industrial Age in America: Robber Barons or Captains of Industry?

The Industrial Age in America: Sweatshops, Steel Mills, and Factories

Jack London's The Call of the Wild: Nature Faker?

Jefferson vs. Franklin: Renaissance Man

Jefferson vs. Franklin: Revolutionary Philosophers

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Listening to History (Looking at family history to understand U.S. history)

Martin Luther King and the Power of Non-violence

Metaphorical Gold: Mining the Gold Rush for Stories

Not Only Paul Revere: Other Riders of the American Revolution

On the Oregon Trail

Poems that Tell a Story: Persona and Narrative in the Poems of Robert Frost

The Poet's Voice: Langston Hughes and You

Revolutionary Tea Parties and the Reasons for Revolution

The Statue of Liberty: Bringing the 'New Colossus to America'

Voting Rights for Women: Pro-and Anti-Suffrage

Who Were the Foremothers of Women's Equality?

Why Do We Remember Revere? Paul Revere's Ride in History and Literature

Women in the White House (history of First Ladies)

Women's Suffrage: Why the West First?

Grades 3-5

American Colonial Life in the 1700's: Distant Cousins

Balancing Three Branches at Once: OurSystem of Checks and Balances

Born on a Mountaintop: Davy Crockett, Tall Tales, & History

Declare the Causes: the Declaration of Independence

Dust Bowl Days

The First Amendment: What's Fair in a Free Country

Go West: Imagining the Oregon Trail

History in Quilts

I Do Solemnly Swear: Presidential Inaugurations

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Someone a Letter(Reading historic letters)

I've Just Seen a Face: Portraits

Jamestown Changes

A Landmark Lesson: The United States Capitol Building

Let Freedom Ring: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Music From Across America

Oh Say Can You See What the Star Spangled Banner Means

On the Home Front

On this Day with Lewis and Clark

The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?

Remember the Ladies: The First Ladies

Slave Narratives: Constructing U.S. History Through Analyzing Primary Sources

The Statue of Liberty: The Meaning and Use ofa National Symbol

Thomas Edison's Inventions in the 1900's and Today: From "New" to You

Traces: Historic Archaeology(historic U.S. places)

We Must Not be Enemies: Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

What Makes a Hero?

Grades K-2

Dr. King's Dream

If You Were a Pioneer on the Oregon Trail

Like Father Like Son: Presidential Families (George W. Bush & John Adams)

Picturing First Families (Looking at presidential families)

Portrait of a Hero

The President's Roles and Responsibilities: Communicating with the President

The President's Roles and Responsibilities: Understanding the President's Job

Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic in the One-Room Schoolhouse

Stars and Stripes Forever: Flag Facts, Flag Day

Stories in Quilts

Then and Now: Early America

Traditions and Languages of Three Native Cultures, Tlingit, Lakota, and Cherokee

What is History? Timelines and Oral Histories

Featured Lessons

Featured Websites


Preamble to the Constitution
Courtesy of The National Archives.