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Schools end Celebrate Freedom Week with presentations

September 23, 2018
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Dressed as the Statue of Liberty, Highlawn Principal Robin Harmon, right, presents students costumed as American icons as part of Celebrate Freedom Week on Friday at Highlawn Elementary School in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Schools across West Virginia on Friday capped off the state’s second annual Celebrate Freedom Week, a time set aside by state law to teach students in all grades about the foundations of American self-government and the value of their civic freedoms.

Many elementary schools began or ended the week with patriotic celebrations aside from the lessons on the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers and the Bill of Rights. At Highlawn Elementary School in Huntington, students and staff were encouraged to dress as their favorite American icon and present before the whole school.

The assembly was a fun end to a week of learning and reciting the Preamble, delving into the history of the American flag and learning the meaning behind “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Fifth-grade students were tasked with creating their own constitution for the school based on classic American virtues.

Elementary students aren’t expected to have the Constitution memorized by week’s end; rather the lessons are geared to breaking down the necessary basics in a way younger students can grasp.

“In the world today, they need that,” said Highlawn Principal Robin Harmon, who was dressed as the Statue of Liberty. “They need to know, with everything going on around out there, they need to know the roots and that we are free.

“There are so many bad things happening in this world. They need to know that our freedom didn’t just happen.”

Ratified by the state Legislature last year, West Virginia joined a handful of other states to recognize Celebrate Freedom Week in the school system through House Bill 3080. The purpose is “to educate students about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values on which this country was founded,” as written in the legislation.

The bill requires at least three hours of instruction in social studies classes, which include an in-depth study of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with an emphasis on the Bill of Rights and uses the historical, political and social environments surrounding each document at the time.

House Bill 3080 passed with no specific outlines for teaching Celebrate Freedom Week aside from covering the nation’s founding documents and leaves how exactly to teach the material up to individual teachers and schools.

Celebrate Freedom Week is experienced across all grades, though different age groups are taught the lessons of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights on different levels. A high school junior, for example, would be asked to delve to a deeper understanding than a first-grader.

In elementary schools, where lessons are less divided among the subjects, grades may incorporate civics in any and all subjects, such as creating patriotic pictures in art class, learning classic American songs in music class and hearing read-aloud stories about the nation’s founding during storytime.

Celebrate Freedom Week coincides with Constitution Day on Sept. 17, the day the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787.

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