Philadelphia and the Constitutional Convention "Heat Up"
by Tracy Devlin
Little did William Penn know that his plans for a "Great Towne," set up in rectangular form between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, would become the site of some of the most important meetings in our nation’s founding, including the meeting that formed our national government. The Constitutional Convention was held in the Pennsylvania State House during the hot summer of 1787. The windows were kept shut and guards posted so that outsiders could not hear the discussions.
What impact did the background, education, and politics of the delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia have on shaping our nation’s future?
- 40 note cards, each with a delegate’s name and state already written on them based on the National Archives Constitution Day page
- Copies of biographies and pictures of the delegates from the National Archives Constitution Day page
- Art supplies for making portraits of delegates, such as construction paper, string, tape, ruler, stapler, scissors, etc.
- Three worksheets: Historical Meet and Greet #1 (PDF), Historical Meet and Greet #2 (PDF), Historical Meet and Greet #3 (PDF)
- The following maps:
A map of the thirteen colonies (you may also use the map available in your class text)
A map of Philadelphia, Library of Congress
- A winter coat
- Pass out delegate note cards as the students walk into the room. Have your winter coat on, but don’t tell them why.
- Once all of the students are seated, explain that on these cards are the names of some of the delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Not all names will be passed out unless you have a very large class.
- Give the students a minute to read the cards with delegate’s name and state, and allow them to trade cards, either with the leftover cards or with other classmates. ** You still have not revealed why you are wearing a winter coat.
- Pass out the Historical Meet and Greet worksheet #1. Read the directions to the class.
- Pass out biographies from the "Delegates to the Constitutional Convention" website at the National Archives. Make sure that students receive the biography that matches their note card.
- Give the class 10–15 minutes to read over the biographies and fill in the 8 required facts on the worksheet. You may need to assign step #3 on the worksheet for homework. Have portraits and art supplies out.
- Pass out Historical Meet and Greet worksheet #2 and the maps.
- Read over the directions for "Historical Meet and Greet" worksheet #2.
- Give students another 10–15 minutes to work on the map and picture activities.
- Finally, ask the students to dress very warmly for the next class and to bring their coats. The goal on the day of the "meet and greet" is for the students to be aware of the incredible heat the delegates had to endure. This will be evident as the students are working (and most likely complaining).
- Move the desks so that they are in sets of two facing each other. You may need to make some sets of three for odd-numbered classes.
- Have students pick a seat and put on their coats. You can finally tell them why (if any get too hot, please have them take off their layers)! They also need to put on their headband, necklace, or sign with their delegate’s portrait.
- Distribute the Historical Meet and Greet Worksheet #3 and read the instructions.
- Explain that each team will have 5 minutes to share facts with each other.
- Have students switch places after about 5 minutes. Continue with this until they have "met" enough of the "delegates" to fill out their worksheets. Have each student independently fill out the summary information.
- Conduct a class discussion on their responses. This is a great way to bring closure and relevance to the activity.
Without these skillful and creative men shaping our nation’s future, what do you think our government would look like today?