Despite its importance, people often misunderstand or are ill-informed about the Bill of Rights. A new free exhibition at Clark-Pleasant Middle School will ideally be a tool against that ignorance.
Story continues below gallery
The middle school is one of 38 Indiana locations, and the only one in Johnson County, chosen to host “The Bill of Rights and You,” a traveling exhibition extolling the importance of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Created to recognize the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, the exhibit was offered to schools, museums, libraries and other public institutions throughout the country.
School officials will use the display to stress the importance of the Bill of Rights to students, as well as the hope to use it for community programming for the general public.
“It is still this living, working document that plays into our lives today. It makes a difference in our government and in our lives,” said Stacey Kern, media clerk at Clark-Pleasant Middle School. “Collaborating with the teachers in our building, the whole idea was what we could do to work together to bring certain things to the students.”
The pop-up display is small, set up in the center of the school’s library. Graphics and text on the display explain why the Bill of Rights is important, why it was created separately from the Constitution and how the structure impacts our daily lives today.
“They are the cornerstone of protecting individual liberties,” said Leah Nahmias, director of programs for Indiana Humanities. “The original Founding Fathers who argued for the Bill of Rights argued that the Constitution didn’t do enough to protect individual freedoms.”
The exhibition was created and distributed by the National Archives and Records Administration, the government entity charged with preserving the vital historical and legal documents created by the U.S. government. The idea for the display grew out of on existing permanent feature at the National Archives building, which focused on amendments and how the 27 that have passed have impacted the U.S.
The idea was to distill some of that knowledge, focus on the first 10 amendments and bring it to the local level. Organizers at the National Archives reached out to humanities councils in states throughout the U.S. to help get the exhibition displayed in individual communities.
Indiana Humanities put out a call to any groups who wanted the free resource for display. Nearly 40 replied back that they would want it in their location.
Participating groups range from Marian University in Indianapolis and Taylor University in Upland to numerous elementary, middle and high schools throughout the state.
“I’m very proud of Hoosiers for being curious and wanting to celebrate this history,” Nahmias said.
Kern was motivated to host the exhibit after finding information about it online. She felt that it could be a useful tool connecting individual classroom learning and in-depth research in the school’s library.
To go along with the exhibition, Indiana Humanities felt that it would be important to have copies of the Constitution to provide to people who came to see the display. JP Morgan Chase sponsored the purchase and distribution of 50 pocket-sized copies to each group hosting the exhibition.
The materials will allow local organizers to create unique programming around the historical significance of the document.
“They can give those away, or they can use them in special events. It will allow teachers and librarians to create some really interesting educational opportunities,” Nahmias said.
Clark-Pleasant Middle School will keep the exhibition on display through the end of February, rotating it from the library to different parts of the school. Teachers have already discussed ways to use it in their classroom lessons.
“The National Archives sent all kinds of support of how to address the importance of the Bill of Rights and how it came to be, to be used in your social studies curriculum,” Kern said.
Kern has also collaborated with the Clark-Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library to implement it into public programming.
Since it is in the school, people can’t walk into the school to see the exhibition, Kern said. But her hope is to create some special opportunities for everyone to see it.
Though it has only been up since mid-December, students and staff are already paying attention to it.
“It’s not huge, but it’s cool to have people walk through and notice that it’s there,” Kern said.