Next week we celebrate Presidents’ Day. Always the third Monday in February, the day was originally marked to celebrate the birthday of our first President, George Washington (who was born on February 22, 1732). With Abraham Lincoln’s birthday also in February (the 12th), Presidents’ Day now typically recognizes these two great leaders of our country, but why not take the opportunity to learn about the Office of the President and some of the other men who led our country too?
Visit a Presidential Library
In Southern California, we are privileged to have not one, but two presidential libraries. While Richard Nixon was the only president to be born in the Golden State (in Yorba Linda), Ronald Reagan spent much of his life here and his presidential library is located in Simi Valley. In addition to special rotating exhibits, both offer exhibits about these men, their lives, and their presidencies. The Nixon Library also displays Army One – the helicopter used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford and you can visit Air Force One at the Reagan Library! For more information, visit their websites: Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
Watch a Video About a President
In 2005, The History Channel produced an 8-episode series entitled “The Presidents,” which examines the events, decisions, and legacy of each man who has held the Office through George W. Bush. If you are unable to find the episodes airing on television, you can find the episodes on YouTube and your library may hold the DVDs as part of their collection. This particular series would be appropriate for older, mature students. My husband and I really enjoyed watching the series, but our first grader would have been bored to tears.
Write a Letter to the President
Teaching our children to be involved civically is more important than ever. One way to become involved is to write a letter to the president. Where age appropriate, have students format the formal letter properly and consider the structure of the letter (introduction, why you are writing, and a call to action, if appropriate). For additional details about writing to the president, visit The White House website.
All letters should be mailed to:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Become President for a Day
Kids love to be in charge and make the rules. Why not give them a day where they can (within reason, of course!). Pick a day that each child can be “president” for a day. They make the decisions (and have to deal with any negative results of those decisions) for that day. This would look slightly different for different age groups–your kindergartner may make decisions about what to eat, what park to play at, or what movie they will watch while you may encourage your teen to imagine decisions the president is actually making with regard to current events and issues in our world today.
Where Our Presidents Came From
Create a map showing the birthplace of each president or where each president is from (or both). This isn’t always the same–Reagan was born in Illinois, but is known as being from California just as Obama was born in Hawaii, but is known as being from Illinois. To incorporate a bit of math, you could also create a bar graph to see which state has produced the most presidents.
Memorize/Give a Famous Presidential Speech
Perhaps the most famous presidential speech was given by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, but many of our presidents have given moving speeches that have produced inspiring quotes pertaining to defining moments in American History (FDR’s Pearl Harbor speech, Kennedy’s address on the space race, George W. Bush’s address after the 9/11 attacks). If you have a group of children, whether your own or as part of your homeschooling group, you could have each child select one such president, memorize any portion of that speech, and then perform it as that president.
Share with us the ways your family learned about the Office of the President and the men who have served in it.