Print edition: Learning Constitution works

FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOMS — What do kids love the best? Arguing. That’s probably why most of the kids in fifth grade are really excited by Constitution Works. It’s a hands-on experience that teaches students about the U.S. Constitution in an unusual way—by arguing an important court case.

Constitution Works uses a fake case, Denver Dispatch vs. the U.S. Government. In the case, the Denver Dispatch published an article about a biological warfare research plant in the area. The government says that releasing that article was dangerous and a threat to the national security. The Denver Dispatch has four more articles to print about the plant. The Government wants to halt publication of the series (called prior restraint).

The Denver Dispatch brings the federal government to court saying that it’s against the First Amendment protections of freedom of the press for the government to stop the paper from printing the other articles they have lined up.

The Denver Dispatch appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after losing in the lower levels of the federal courts. The high court will make the final decision on the case. Now, it’s up to the fifth graders.

There are three different jobs a fifth grader can be assigned: Supreme court justice, Department of Justice lawyer or Denver Dispatch attorney. There will be two sets of nine justices on the field trip to Federal Bankruptcy Court in New York City, where the fifth graders will stage the case on June 12.

The justices will make their decision based on what the lawyers tell them. The lawyers will quote real cases to convince the justices.

Mrs. Tonya Wilson, the principal, said the project is “a great way to learn.”

The fifth graders might not even know it but they are learning.

“I think the experience is a lot better than the textbooks,” said Nicholas Sarcinella (5M).

Andrew Kelly agreed (5M). “You’re actually doing it instead of reading about it. Anybody can read about it.”

“It is more 3-D than learning out of a textbook,” said  Olivia Horowitz (5H).

“I’d rather learn hands on” said Amelie L’Henaff