We are proud to call Joseph Cofield Liberty Day Institute’s Florida Coordinator. Joseph retired from United States Army after 21 years as a soldier in the Signal Corps, with almost two-thirds of those years served in oversea commands mostly in Europe. “I am truly amazed when I reflect on how quickly time passes,” Joseph observes. His hard work and dedication in service to our nation’s military continues now through his volunteer work heading up the Institute’s Florida effort to educate youth about the U.S. Constitution and American government and as a Fellow with the James Madison Institute.
After the Old Naples 10K Race in Naples Florida on November 08, 2014, a great moment for the teaching the United States Constitution took place while waiting to announce the top winners…
Joseph completed his race and eyed a group of high school students raffling an opportunity to win $500 for the Cancer Alliance of Naples (CAN). He could not resist a challenge, so he informed the high school students that if they could answer correctly some questions from the Constitution he would gladly donate $5.00 or more to their project.
First question, how many Amendments are there to the Constitution?
Answer: Ranged from 13 to 20 from the small group of high school students.
Correct Answer: 27 Amendments to the Constitution, so I put my $5.00 back in the pocket.
Answer: Ranged from freedom of speech but none other beyond establishment of religion and after hearing so many incorrect answers I was starting to get confused but this confusion led me to remember that I always carried my Liberty Day Constitution booklet on me so I showed them that there was no mystery to the five and it was really was five parts just as they had five fingers. All the students got Amendment II “The Right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
G = Grievances (petition the Government for a redress of grievances)
R = Religion (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof)
A = Assemble (right of the people to peaceably to assemble)
S = Speech (freedom of speech)
P = Press (freedom of the press)
Joseph became convinced that the students would not get an answer correct, so he did what he does before teaching every lesson in the classroom. He used the KWL method (what does the student know already, what will be important to teach the student, and of course what did the student learn). I asked the students to select any one of the 27 Amendments and please tell me correctly what the Amendment stated.
What I got next was worth more than $500.00. The other students gathered around and now with a group of 15 -20 and we examined the United Constitution, identifying facts that the high school students knew from their past school years.
Using the questions in the Liberty Day Constitution booklets, the high school students would not stop until every question was reviewed as they questioned each other until someone is the group came up with the answer or close enough for us to turn the pages and somehow read out loudly what the real answer was. An example of the fun of learning:
Nga asked the group, how long is one term of office for a member of the US Senate?
Answer: Ranged from 4 to 8 finally someone said 6. Joseph identified the answer as correct, and the student earned a Constitution bracelet. Just to prove that the teacher was fair, Nga looked up the answer and page where it could be found in the Constitution.
Correct Answer: Six (6) years (pg. 2) (a student read out loudly and with boldness, “The Senate of the United States…for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote).
What a great teaching moment on November 8, 2014! The students freely hung around after the race earned their Liberty Day Constitution booklet and Constitution bracelet and vowed that they would pass this knowledge on to others and will challenge other with their new expanded knowledge about the United States Constitution.
Special thanks to my mentor and great professor Dr. Robert Safransky (Dr. S.) for reminding me about the glove and GRASP method for teaching the five parts of the 1st Amendment. Also special thanks to a great parent by the name of Deirdre Clemons for sharing how her children were so eager to learn the Constitution beyond the classroom. Thus, I am never afraid that the students will be turned off from wanting to learning beyond the wall of the classrooms.
I just found another way to grab a teaching moment and share the United States Constitution.
Florida State Coordinator, Liberty Day Institute