Do you remember a time when you were watching TV and the President came on? A sense of dread would rush through you as you flipped through the few channels available, even though you knew the President would be on every single one. One could always hope there would be at least one channel to watch! For most kids, the President speaking was about as much fun as watching paint dry. For being such a prestigious position, why weren’t we more interested in what the President had to say? Many of us could watch hours of our favorite celebrities talking about nothing at all. Maybe we need to rethink how we learn about the presidents, and Presidents’ Day seems like an opportune time to do so!
History of Presidents’ Day
In 1879 George Washington’s birthday was first celebrated as a federal holiday. With the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, the holiday was moved to the third Monday of February and included the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. While the holiday is still officially called Washington’s Birthday, it is more commonly referred to as Presidents’ Day since the 1980s. Today, most people celebrate all presidents, past and present. Whichever president(s) you decide to celebrate, there are many ways to incorporate multiple subjects that will bring hands-on fun to the home or classroom.
There are many lessons to be learned through the study of the presidential office; here are a few to get started:
- History: Have your students research, write about, and present the history of their topic of choice. Some ideas include:
Government: This is a perfect opportunity to help students learn more about the government and how the president fits into it. This can be a very complicated and confusing subject, but Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government is a fun way for children to learn more about how it all works. If you are feeling very adventurous, you could set up a mock system in your classroom for your students to experience firsthand!
Fun Facts: Present interesting facts about presidents or have your students find some of their own and share them with the class. The White House Historical Association Q & A is a great resource full of fascinating facts such as the time a pony was snuck into the White House elevator to visit the sick child of Theodore Roosevelt.
Read a Book: Reading is a great way to positively affect your physical and mental health. Stop by your library and see how many books related to the presidency you can find. This is a great opportunity to learn about the Presidential Libraries and visit them online. You can also start with this list of 22 Presidential Books for the Classroom by We are Teachers.
- Math: With pictures of presidents on our money, math can be easily integrated into your Presidents’ Day lessons. Start by introducing the Life of a Coin by U.S. Mint Coin Classroom. Follow up with hands-on applications for money in Right-Brained Time, Money, and Measurement. Students start by learning different denominations and end with adding money and making change. This book teaches via images, stories, hands-on activities, and patterns, which engage and target the child’s natural learning strengths.
Science: While we are on the subject of coins, you can bring some science into your Presidents’ Day lessons with a fun experiment with coins. Students can make note of the presidents that are on different coins and discuss the importance of those presidents,
then learn about surface tension and the effects of gravity on water molecules.
Another great hands-on experiment is What Cleans an Old Penny? by Highlights. Of course, you can use any coins you choose and let the class go a little further with the extended fun options.
You can also incorporate the scientific method for both of these experiments, with as much detail as is appropriate for the students.
Craft time: Crafts are an excellent way for children to engage in hands-on learning while strengthening their fine motor skills. Allow your students to enjoy the process and express their unique creativity. Here are 15 Perfect Presidents’ Day Activities by Teaching Expertise to get you started.
Language Arts: Presidents’ Day seems like a fine time to learn about the topic of possessives, seeing as though the title of the holiday itself leads to many errors in usage. President’s Day refers to a day for one individual president (singular), whereas Presidents’ Day is a day for more than one president (plural). Read our blog, Tips for Teaching Possessive Tense, for an engaging lesson idea!
- Writing: Take this opportunity to discuss with your class what they think makes a good president. What qualities or traits help a president to be successful at leading our country? What are things that a president needs to do? After some discussion, have them write a paper about what they would do if they were president. You can use this template for writing and illustration, or have the students design their own. You could have them read their paper in front of the class or hang them up around the classroom or on a display. Another idea for writing is to have your students write a letter to the president.
Presidents’ Day can be a fun and educational learning experience for your classroom! Implement the ideas above or share with us some of your own! We are here to support you along the way. If you have any questions, please contact us!