Like the Summer Olympics, World Cup, Leap Day and Election Day, the Inauguration comes around only once every four years. The 57th Inauguration will be held on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, and presents a unique opportunity for educators to teach students about a historic American tradition as it happens.
While there will be plenty of media covering the event as a historic moment, the history classroom doesn’t need to be the only place where the Inauguration is taught.
The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies has a number of free online resources that offer not only information from Smithsonian experts, but also strategies for teaching the Inauguration across the curriculum.
For example, students studying literature might be interested in reading past inaugural speeches, from the longest by William Henry Harrison in 1841 (over 8,000 words), to the shortest by George Washington at his second Inauguration in 1793 (130 words).
Art teachers can study presidential portraits with their students, and discuss what each says about the president and the country at the time the portrait was created. The Smithsonian also provides a rich library of inauguration photos, from early daguerreotypes of President Lincoln to 360-degree views of President Obama’s first Inauguration ceremony.
Of course, there is plenty of historical information available as well, from which president had the most inaugural balls (President Clinton in 1996 with 14), to interesting facts about the inaugural parade (a hot air balloon was part of the procession in 1857), to notorious guests who attended some of the most famous inaugural addresses (John Wilkes Booth was in the crowd at Lincoln’s second Inauguration).
These are just some of the ways to make the Inauguration of President Obama “come alive” in the classroom with the help of the Smithsonian
For more information about Smithsonian resources related to the Inauguration, visit http://smithsonianeducationconferences.org/.
Teachers can also encourage students to engage with the Inauguration in real time through social media sites like Twitter, by following the official Inauguration hashtag: #inaug2013. More information about the 57th Inauguration, including a full list of the day’s events, is available at http://www.inaugural.senate.gov/.