Join the Bill of Rights Institute for five days of energizing professional development in Washington, D.C. This program will enrich you as a learner and help you wrestle as a scholar with the complex ideas of the liberty protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Attending teachers will participate in pedagogical sessions with master teachers, lectures and discussion sessions with constitutional scholars, as well as visiting historic sites in the D.C. area.

Eligibility: Social Studies teachers of grades 7-12.

Program Overview:

Objectives: Teachers will be equipped to guide students to do the following:

Examine the constitutional principles of liberty, limited government, inalienable rights, and individual responsibility.
Explain the historical origins of First Amendment’s guarantees and explain why these liberties are essential to self-government.
Evaluate the constitutional reasoning behind Supreme Court decisions and other controversies related to First Amendment guarantees.
Appreciate the enduring legacy of the Founders’ commitment to First Amendment liberties.

Required pre-conference readings to include (but not limited to) selections from:

  • John Locke
  • James Madison
  • George Mason
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers
  • Supreme Court decisions

Lectures by constitutional scholars, as well as lesson plans and classroom applications on topics to include:

  • Historical development of the liberties protected in the First Amendment
  • Freedom of religion, including the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause
  • Freedom of speech, press, assembly, and petition and their relevance to preserving our constitutional republic
  • Landmark court decisions and continuing controversies related to First Amendment liberties

Logistical and Program Details:

  • The program begins with required pre-conference readings which will be sent to participants in May.
  • Lodging, transportation during the program, and most meals will be covered by the Institute. Lodging and most program sessions will take place at a hotel in the Washington, D.C. area.
  • Applicants should understand that scheduled activities will fully occupy their time each day.  From the program opening at 4:00 PM on Monday, July 25 until its closing at noon on Friday July 29, there will be little to no time for individual tourist or sight-seeing activities.  Unfortunately, we are not able to include any participant’s family or guests in any of the scheduled activities.
  • Participants should wait to book travel until they have been accepted to the program. Participants will be responsible for arranging their own transportation to and from Washington, D.C., but will receive a $400 travel stipend at the conclusion of the program.
  • An additional $100 will be available upon completion of all post-program activities. *Required activities include classroom specific implementation of one or more Institute lesson plans, as well as administration of two in-class, student quizzes.
  • Participating teachers will receive a certificate for 30 seat hours.

Application Period and Process

  • The online application period will run from November 2, 2015-March 15, 2016.
  • Acceptances will be made by mid-April.


Have questions about the program? Contact Laura Vlk at!