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Why WHY AMERICA? The Constitution and its Origins

Students learn about the Constitution as a contract between the new government and the American people, why it was instituted, and how it works. They are introduced to the drafting and ratification process of the Constitution, including why the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient to hold together the new United States of America and why a new contract was necessary.  In our December 2019 event on this topic with local students at the National Archives, students got to “meet” James Madison and tour the National Archives Museum.


Why America? Hamilton’s Vision

Students explore the Treasury and America’s financial system, as well as additional material about the legislative branch. Through these resources, students learn how the new contract, the Constitution, was intended to function, and how the Founders envisioned that we would pay for it. Alexander Hamilton factored in strongly in that discussion; at the Washington, DC event in January 2020 with students from the area, Mr. Hamilton was present to help students explore how America functions. They also learned about the role of Congress and had an opportunity to tour the US Capitol. You can do it too from anywhere in the world!


Why America? The Father of our Country & the Presidency

Students learn about how the executive branch of the American Government functions according to the decisions made by the Congress on who should execute the constitution. This lesson also looks at the story of Ona Judge, a Washington Family slave who escaped captivity, to introduce students to Washington’s less glamorous legacy as a slaveholder. At our Washington, D.C. event on this topic in March 2020, students met with historical interpreters representing George Washington, his friends and the enslaved people who were instrumental to the nation’s early success.

Student and Teacher Resources: 

Use the following lesson plans and activities to guide your students through this module.

George Washington and the Presidency 
Learn about George Washington’s life 

George Washington’s Farewell Address
Read Washington’s Farewell Address
Explore the historical significance of Washington’s Farewell Address

The Constitution and the Presidency 
Learn about Article 2 of the Constitution

George Washington and Establishing the Presidency 
Explore establishing the presidency and the principles of democracy

George Washington Introductory Video
Washington: History Channel Miniseries
Ten Facts about Washington and Slavery
Ona Judge, Escaped Slave


Students learn about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and about the neighborhood around the White House, longtime center of activism and political expression. The lessons focus on the battle fought by the women’s suffragist movement, especially the accomplishments of African American suffragists. In our April 2019 event on this module, students toured Lafayette Square and numerous historical sites with programming from the White House Historical Association. Ever since The White House was first occupied by President John Adams in 1800, influential people and organizations—or those who hoped to have influence—have bought property and built homes and offices along the streets surrounding the White House.


Student and Teacher Resources: 

Use the following lesson plans and activities to guide your students through this module.

African American Suffragists
The lesson includes a pre-reading activity, comprehension questions for students to answer during reading, and a writing activity to synthesize what students have read. The lesson also includes a student-facing slide deck, and a teacher answer key to the student worksheet.
Student directed reading
Teacher answer key
Student facing slide deck

Sojourner Truth - Abolitionist and Feminist
Learn about Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
Dive into the history of Women’s Suffrage

The President’s neighborhood
Explore the White House online
Explore the president’s Neighborhood and historic D.C. online

Mobile App:
Virtual White House tour

White House Historical Association videos

Why America? The Military, Memorial & Flag Days

This lesson teaches students about the meaning of Flag Day and Memorial Day, as well as why it is important to observe Flag Etiquette out of respect for our military and their commitment to protecting us. At our event on this topic in June 2019, Students visited the Pentagon and learned why we honor our fallen troops, how to fold a flag, and the history of this iconic symbol of our nation.

Student and Teacher Resources: 

Use the following lesson plans and activities to guide your students through this module.

Learn why we celebrate Flag Day
Learn why June 14 is an important day in History
Explore the history of the Star Spangled Banner

Learn the history of Memorial Day

Learn all about the U.S. Military

For additional resources visit Ashbrook Online Resources to Teach American History.  The Ashbrook Center has for years offered quality educational programs and resources online including a library of primary source documents, interactive exhibits, podcasts, and Teaching American History Toolkits on their website www.TeachingAmericanHistory.org.


Made possible by the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation and exclusive to District of Columbia charter schools, Why America? aims to increase appreciation for this country’s founding by introducing 4th-8th grade students to invaluable historical resources in and around the nation’s capital.

It's easy. If you want to have a school participate or you'd like to help us broaden the reach of "Why America?", write us at events@edreform.com or call 202-750-0016

And a special note to teachers. "Why America?" is meant as a teaching aide and help to you. We welcome – and need – your input and support. Please contact us at any time about any aspect of the program.