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Putting It All Together

The enduring principles and philosophies expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have inspired numerous countries around the globe over the past two centuries. In this lesson, students have examined the history of Independence Hall, the reasons it was designated a World Heritage Site, and the meaning of that designation. After completing the following activities, students will be able to explain in greater detail the differences the Founding Fathers had to work through to establish independence and create a new government, the international impact of events at Independence Hall, the value of recognizing important cultural and natural sites, and the importance of their own local governmental buildings.

Activity 1: The Signers
Have students select a person who signed either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution (or both) and compile a brief biography. This biography should include the person's background, political views, and contribution to the Continental Congress or the Constitutional Convention. Ask students to present their biographies to the class. Then have the class discuss the variety of personalities, backgrounds, and opinions held by these men.

To further the activity, ask students to identify some of the key issues the delegates discussed at both the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. Have students hold debates on those issues, taking the positions they think the person they studied would have taken, to the extent possible. These debates will help them understand the challenges the delegates faced in trying to work together to determine the future of the country. It will also help them better understand why some of these issues have continued to be debated and contested throughout our history.

Activity 2: Legacy of Freedom
Divide the class into two groups. Have students in the first group each select a country and write a short report on how that country's government operated at the time of the American Revolution. Reports should include information on when and how the government structure was put in place and how the government system impacted the people of the country. Students also should compare that country's government to the one established by the United States Constitution.

Students in the second group should choose a country that has used the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as a model for reforming or establishing its government. (Refer to examples listed in Reading 2.) Have students prepare a short report that summarizes the country's political situation and specifically explains how that country used the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as a model. The report also should provide information on the results of the country's efforts to invoke governmental change.

After students have shared their reports, conclude the activity by discussing why the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were such revolutionary documents for their time and how the ideals expressed in them continue to ring true more than 200 years later.

Activity 3: World Heritage Sites
Have students look up the criteria for selecting natural sites for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Then ask students to select and conduct research on a World Heritage Site, making sure that the class selects both natural and cultural sites from a variety of countries. See UNESCO's website for the complete list by country. Have students role-play by asking them to describe the sites they have researched and make a case for the inclusion of each one on the World Heritage List. Ask class members to vote on which ones they would include on the list. Then have each student create one of the following: a poster, three-dimensional exhibit, documentary, or website to describe one of the sites and explain why and when it was selected as a World Heritage Site. They should also include any relevant information on the site's preservation and any possible threats.

As a class, have students discuss the criteria for designation as a World Heritage Site and consider the variety of resources included on the list. Conclude the activity by having students debate the importance of designating and protecting resources of "outstanding universal value." Students may also want to explore ways that they can get involved in the World Heritage program.

Activity 4: Local Government Buildings
Have students research a building where local government officials meet (or the state capitol building if students live in or near the state capital). The class should arrange to take a tour and/or sit in on a public meeting to get a better understanding of how the local government operates. Students should find out exactly what types of activities take place in the building and the impact the decisions made there can have on daily life in the community. Findings could be presented in a written report, an oral presentation, or a visual display. Students may also want to compare the design and layout of the local meeting room with the Assembly Room at Independence Hall and discuss similarities and differences.

To further the activity, students may want to find out if the building they researched is listed on the National Register of Historic Places or has achieved some other recognition at the local or state level. If so, students should obtain a copy of the nomination documentation and determine if the documentation is thorough and up to date. If not, what information might need to be added to make the nomination more complete? If the building is not listed, what steps might be taken to honor the building and its contribution to the community's history?

Students can research whether or not a place has been listed on the National Register by visiting the National Register website and clicking on "Find Listed Places." Your State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) will also be able to tell students whether or not a place has been listed on the National Register, as well as whether or not it has received state or local recognition. Students can find out the name and contact information for their SHPO on the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers website. Students may obtain copies of nominations from either the National Register or SHPO office.

 

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