President’s Day is celebrated every third Monday in February, providing a great opportunity for teachers to make history come alive for students with impactful lesson plans.
Teaching about the roles and responsibilities of the President fosters an appreciation for leadership, highlights the significance of civic engagement, and connects the past with the present.
This article shares creative ideas for President’s Day lesson plans to help educators develop interactive learning experiences suitable for all grade levels.
The Origins and Significance of President’s Day
Originally established in 1885 to recognize President George Washington, the holiday was traditionally celebrated on February 22nd, Washington’s birthday.
In 1971, President’s Day was moved to the third Monday in February as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which sought to create more 3-day weekends for workers.
The date change also helped honor President Abraham Lincoln, another highly influential leader, who was born on February 12th.
President’s Day commemorates all those who have served in the nation’s highest office.
Teaching students about former presidents provides insights into pivotal moments in American history, key governmental processes and structures, and the qualities of strong leadership.
Engaging President’s Day lesson plans can help spark students’ interest in civics, history, and politics.
President’s Day Lesson Plans that Encourage Deeper Learning
In addition to specific daily lessons and activities, consider extended projects that allow students to immerse themselves in president-focused learning. These build research skills, critical thinking, and a passion for history.
Create a President Biography
After studying reputable sources about a president’s early life, career, election, and time in office, students can synthesize the key facts and events into a biography. Encourage reflection on the president’s lasting impacts, controversies, and legacy. The biography can be a written paper, video documentary, website, mobile app timeline, or even a live first-person dramatic portrayal.
Analyze and Design Political Campaigns
Examining real historical campaigns side-by-side with current ones enables a rich analysis of how strategies have evolved. Students can then apply their knowledge by designing campaign branding, advertisements, debate and speech content, and platforms for mock candidates. This helps demystify the campaign process and highlights the strategizing involved in winning elections.
Develop a Presidential Time Capsule
Have students curate artifacts, images, speeches, and other symbolic items that represent a president’s term into a physical or digital time capsule. To extend the learning in President’s Day lesson plans like this, time capsules can also be created to capture today’s societal snapshots for future generations to uncover. Adding reflective narratives helps synthesize how presidents navigated the issues of their times.
Plan a President’s Day Event
Organize an engaging President’s Day event for the community with activities that spotlight different presidents and their contributions. Students can develop informational materials and games for an interactive showcase. President impersonators or reenactors would also add excitement. This is a chance to practice leadership, project management, public speaking, and teamwork skills.
Publish a President’s Day Newspaper
Creating a historically themed newspaper is an entertaining way to motivate writing and research on presidents, first ladies, elections, scandals, controversies, failures, successes, legislation, events, and more. Students can write articles, create illustrations, design advertisements, and even film news segments. The final papers or digital editions will make class-created history come alive.
Compare and Contrast Presidential Policies
Challenging students to analyze and present the differing policies, political tactics, ideologies, and decisions of multiple presidents develops critical evaluation skills. Excellent debate and discussion topics include economic policies, Supreme Court appointments, approach to conflicts, expansion of federal power, interpretations of the Constitution, and management styles.
Spotlight Student Talents
Incorporate student hobbies and talents to create president-themed learning opportunities. Budding artists can design patriotic murals and posters. STEM enthusiasts could build White House models. Coders can develop president history apps and games. Crafters can make presidential parade floats. Dancers and musicians could choreograph and perform themed pieces. Limitations spark creativity!
By driving President’s Day lesson plans with inquiry, design, and real-world connections, students gain a meaningful understanding of presidential impacts rather than just memorizing facts.
Field Trips Immerse Students in History
Visiting historic sites, museums, and monuments allows students to experience places where former leaders lived, worked, and made history firsthand. Seeing artifacts, documents, images, exhibits, and reenactments in context has a powerful impact.
Here are some top field trip recommendations to supplement President’s Day lesson plans if budgets allow:
- Washington D.C. – The White House, Capitol Building tours, Smithsonian museums, National Archives, and iconic memorials and monuments.
- Mount Vernon, VA – George Washington’s estate, gardens, museum, and historic areas. Reenactors bring the Revolutionary era to life.
- Gettysburg, PA – Gettysburg National Military Park with battlefield tours highlighting Lincoln’s famous address.
- Hyde Park, NY – Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and his family home Springwood.
- Abilene, KS – Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and boyhood home.
- Independence, MO – Harry S. Truman home, library and museum capturing his life and presidency.
- Yorba Linda, CA – Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum plus his birth home.
- Little Rock, AR – William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum along the Arkansas River.
- Canton, OH – William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum honoring the 25th President.
Make Local Connections
Every community nationwide has hidden presidential history if you look closely! Search for statues, memorial plaques, preserved homes, local tributes, gravesites, historical societies, artifact collections, and more. Discovering your town’s presidential connections makes history personal.
Focus on Accessibility
When planning trips, prioritize visits to sites that offer student group discounts or free entry to make experiences accessible for all. Leverage virtual tours and digital exhibits to complement in-person explorations as well. Crowdfunding campaigns can also help fund class trips.
Experiencing places where consequential decisions were made provides historical context and inspires students to see themselves as future leaders.
Additional Enrichment Activities
Keep kids engaged before, during, and after the day with these supplemental learning activities for President’s Day lesson plans:
- Host a presidential trivia contest.
- Sample popular foods from past presidential eras.
- Learn presidential dances like the Virginia Reel.
- Construct model airplanes flown by pioneering presidents.
- Recreate historic White House menus enjoyed by former first families.
- Design presidents’ gardens incorporating their favorite flowers.
- Discover presidential pets and create education campaigns about them.
- Compare campaign songs and slogans over time.
- Examine the evolution of Air Force One and presidential limousines.
- Draft proclamations for a 21st-century national holiday.
- Test knowledge with presidential crossword puzzles and word searches.
Tie enrichment activities into curriculum standards and learning objectives to get the most value from the investments of time and effort.
Impactful Resources to Enrich President’s Day Learning
Equip students for success by providing access to multimedia resources that bring president-focused learning to life.
- The White House – Official history, images, videos, and records from past and current administrations.
- Presidential Libraries – Archives, museums, and historical sites preserving legacies.
- PBS Presidents Collection – Animated bios, timelines, games, and lesson plans.
- C-SPAN – Videos and documents on campaigns, elections, and leadership.
- iCivics – Classroom games like Win the White House and Executive Command.
- Newsela – Current event articles adapted for all reading levels.
- Biography.com – Presidential biographies, facts, and trivia.
Reference reputable websites and books to supplement your own creative and engaging President’s Day lesson plans. Most importantly, make the learning participatory, inclusive, and connected to real-world contexts to inspire the leaders of the future.
While every teacher will put their own creative spin on engaging students, this article’s suggested President’s Day lesson plans, resources, and activities offer a strong foundation for learning fun.
When history comes to life, students come to love learning. After all, the leaders of tomorrow are inspired by the leaders of yesterday.
Educators can also consider incorporating multimedia tools like WeVideo to create virtual tours, digital exhibits, and video presentations that complement in-person learning experiences.
WeVideo provides a robust, easy-to-use platform for developing creative videos and presentations across academic subjects. Teachers can access these special WeVideo coupons to get the best value in bringing this innovative technology into the classroom.
By integrating a diversity of hands-on activities, field trips, and multimedia resources into President’s Day lesson plans, students gain a richer perspective on presidents and American history.