By Angela Padrón
On the third Monday in February, we celebrate Presidents’ Day. It began in 1885 to honor President George Washington’s birthday, which is actually February 22. However, in 1971, the government wanted to combine the recognition of all presidents past and present. Plus they wanted to create a three-day weekened for America’s workers. So the traditional third Monday of February was designated for the annual holiday.
Presidents’ Day is a great time to not only teach students about United States history but also to promote patriotism and pride for our country. There are several activities related to Presidents’ Day that teachers can do in the classroom:
- – Assign each student an American president to research. Then students write a report and dress up like the president for a presentation.
- – Review the rules and steps of electing a president in the U.S. and hold a mock election in the classroom to determine a class president.
- – Discuss the roles of an American president as well as “checks and balances” in American government.
- – Research and discuss the history of the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and other recognized structures in Washington D.C. Have students design their own monument or structure to honor a different president.
- – Research and discuss the presidents shown on Mount Rushmore and debate why each of those presidents was chosen to be portrayed on the mountain.
- – Create a list of “fun facts” of each president, such as their favorite pets or hobbies.
- – Compare and contrast Abraham Lincoln to George Washington or other more famous presidents, such as John F. Kennedy or Barack Obama. Have students work in groups to use a Venn diagram and present the information.
- – Discuss the significance of electing our first African American president, Barack Obama, and the impact his presidency could have on future elections and race relations in America.
- – Discuss the different presidents depicted on American coins and dollar bills and why students think they may have been chosen for that particular monetary unit.
- – Create a chronological timeline of the different American presidents and their greatest accomplishments.
As you can see, there are many ways to teach about and celebrate Presidents’ Day with students. Not only will students learn about our nation’s history and contributions made by past and present day presidents, but they will develop a stronger sense of patriotism in the process.