For Constitution Day, making the historic document interactive

 Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, introduces the Interactive Constitution. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, introduces the Interactive Constitution. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The National Constitution Center is teaming up with the College Board to make students more aware of the country’s founding documents.

The groups have announced what they’re calling an “interactive Constitution” that’s the result of a multi-million-dollar grant aimed at spreading literacy about the nation’s founding principles.

To be sure, interacting with the Constitution probably doesn’t sound thrilling to most students. But this spiffy tool with the design of an online magazine filled with short, punchy passages from scholars makes the interaction less painful.

You can poke around to see how an Amendment was formed, how academics debate the meaning and how it compares to similar national rights in other countries.

The online tool is set to be integrated into Advanced Placement classes on government and politics. Boosters say it’s especially relevant because the new SAT exam includes questions on the country’s founding documents.

“Every major political question in America comes back to being a Constitutional question, and students are engaged with our political debates. I hope that when they see a YouTube video of someone making a claim about the Constitution, they’ll come back to this document and make up their own mind,” said Constitution Center’s CEO Jeff Rosen.

Rosen says becoming conversant about founding documents should be a labor; it should be fun.

The College’s Board’s David Coleman says SAT scores have been flat for years. Getting students to wrap their minds around the Constitution could jumpstart reading comprehension skills.

“What it shows is students lack the capacity to read increasingly dense texts and make sense of it, to analyze it with care,” Coleman said. “If you can’t do that, you’re stuck, right? Because if you go to college and you can’t read at a college level, everything is not open to you.”

The website might have a tough time competing with Facebook and Twitter, but Rosen says it’s about time the country’s Amendments got fancier digs.

The project is the result of three years of development with a $5.5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

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