Okay, before you say no, I want you to listen to me very carefully. This is about more than building a fort in the forest even though our parents said no. This is about more than just being kids and getting our knees skinned and our ankles twisted. This is about our freedom. See, we have rights. We should be able to start our own state where we do whatever we want whenever we want. Cartoons every morning! Slides instead of stairs! Dessert before dinner! Our parents ground us and take away our allowance and tell us what we can or cannot do. This is kind of like when the Colonists wrote the Constitution. What do you mean you don't know about it? Good thing one of us pays attention in school.
You know that the American colonists did not want to be a part of Britain anymore, right? They did not like being told what to do by people who lived all the way across the sea. They did not like paying taxes to the king while not having a say in how the colonies were run. The Founding Fathers said that all people had rights and that those rights could not be taken away. They said they wanted to make their own country. They fought a war. They won. After that they had to come up with their own rules to govern themselves. The Constitution is a written list of ideas that are used to run a country, and the one for the U.S. was passed in 1789. It gave people freedom and rules. That's what we need. We are going to write our own constitution.
No one gets the rules just right on the first try. You cannot just say that everyone is free and leave it at that. Also, over time, ideas change. The Founding Fathers had the same problem. They had to make changes to the Constitution. An amendment is a change or an addition to the Constitution. The basic document says that everyone has rights. (It didn't say girls or slaves had rights, but ours will be different. All people are allowed in our fort so long as they aren't our parents.) Saying everyone has rights is not always clear though. So they made changes. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and we can do the same. . . Right, we're in the forest. Grab a stick, some mud, and that leaf.
Just because the Constitution says that everyone has rights, does that mean I'm allowed to call you mean names? Does that mean that you can carry around a stick with sharp thorns on it? These were the questions the Constitution did not answer all by itself and many people wanted very clear rules that talked about how much freedom they would have. The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments, or changes, to the U.S. Constitution and they were added in 1791. They had ideas like freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. Not big, hairy arms with claws. Arms in this case means guns. There are eight more, but we can just focus on those two for now. In this fort, we can say whatever we want to each other and we can all carry sticks with thorns. It's when we start swinging those sticks at each other that we start breaking the laws.
It's so great that we get to say whatever we want. Back when the United States were just a bunch of colonies, they were not allowed to say bad things about their king. It was illegal to say mean stuff! Even if it was true! Free speech means that there cannot be any law that stops you from saying things when talking, writing, or meeting. Think of all the words our parents won't let us say at home. Think of all the things you've wanted to say to your parents but knew you would get grounded for. Our forest constitution will let us say anything we want all the time! Booger!
Let's get started! We will use the first American colonists as an example. We will have our own Constitution, or a set of rules, just like the one that runs the United States. After we have written it, if we think of something new, we can always make an amendment, a change or an addition. If we have enough changes, we will have a Bill of Rights, which is the first ten amendments in the Constitution. One of the most important of changes was the right of free speech, or the right to say anything without the government or our parents being angry . . . What are you looking at? My dad's standing right behind me, isn't he? . . . I am in so much trouble.
White House. "The Constitution" whitehouse.gov, 2011. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/constitution>