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Local residents dress as colonists to entertain and educate students about the U.S. Constitution

JASON CHANEY - Lorrie Peterson, left, portrays Betsy Ross during a presentation in Joanne Fenderson's kindergarten class at High Desert Christian Academy Wednesday to commemorate Constitution Week. Donna and Steve Hammond also dressed in colonial costumes.

How many stars are on the United States flag?

What do the stripes represent?

Who are some of our country's Founding Fathers, and what role did they play in developing the United States Constitution 230 years ago?

These are some of the questions the 135 students at High Desert Christian Academy were asked on Wednesday while celebrating Constitution Week.

"In celebrating our Independence Day, oftentimes it's all about hot dogs and parades, but it has a much deeper meaning that a lot of people don't even think about, and they should," explained Donna Hammond earlier this week. "We're hoping to suggest some thoughts into their heads this week about what it is that the Constitution provides us and why it's a sacred document and not just one to be trampled."

A parent of HDCA students invited Hammond, a member of Central Oregon Patriots, to teach Christian school students about the Constitution during Constitution Week, Sept. 17-23.

"We feel it is very important that all of our children know about the Constitution, so we were right on board with that," said HDCA Administrator Maggie Hale.

On Wednesday, Hammond and Lorrie Peterson donned traditional colonial period dresses, while Hammond's husband, Steve, became George Washington.

The Prineville trio spent 10 minutes with students from each class — ranging from pre-kindergartners to 12th-graders — entertaining and educating them about the U.S. Constitution.

Hammond touched upon the five documents that were predecessors to the Constitution from the 1100s, such as the Charter of Liberties and the Magna Carta.

Hammond said she taught about the Constitution's foundation "so that they recognize that this document came about as a result of tried and true responses to tyrants who were in charge. ... This document is a result of England being a tyrant toward us."

Peterson spoke from the perspective of the women who were instrumental during that era. Some classes heard from Betsy Ross, who made the first American flag. Others heard from Martha Washington, Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren.

"She portrayed multiple women's roles and reminded them that it took men and women to found this country, and they all worked together," Hammond said. "Even today, we can all work together and even at the very least say prayers for those who are in positions that God will guide their hands."

Hammond then asked the students age-appropriate questions about the U.S. flag, the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution itself. Students were then given their own pocket Constitution.

"This is the first time I've done this. I'm not really skilled as a speaker, but I'm willing to throw myself out there and see how it goes," Hammond said.

She pointed out that there's a federal mandate that any school or educational entity that receives federal funding is asked to offer an educational program on the Constitution during Constitution Week, and although the private Christian school is not required to do so, "They were very happy to have somebody offer to come in," Hammond said.

Constitution Week is celebrated annually during the week of Sept. 17-23 to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787.

The Daughters of the American Revolution started this celebration in 1955 to emphasize citizens' responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution; inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America's heritage and the foundation for their way of life; and encourage the study of the historical events that led to the framing of the Constitution.

Hammond says it's important that local students learn about the federal document and to celebrate Constitution Week.

"There is such an adverse agenda in our world now to destroy that document and the founders an demonize them and uproot our history and change it," Hammond said. "It needs to be revered and honored by the next generation who are going to suffer if they lose it all together."

She pointed out that her Christian school audience and their parents have a high regard for their scriptures and the religious freedom in this country.

"We need to recognize that the Constitution was divinely inspired," Hammond said.

She hopes her lessons reinforced what the parents already believe and know and give the students more food for thought and have a little fun at the same time.

"It went very well. The kids were all engaged," Hale said of the presentations. "They came in their costumes, and I heard nothing but good about it."

Hammond hopes that she has planted some seeds that could grow into something bigger.

"We're hoping this will take hold," Hammond said. "I'd like to see it built upon."

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