Freedom of Information Day takes place on March 16th- James Madison‘s birthday. It is commemorated on this day because Madison was a staunch proponent of a free press and flow of information to the public. The Freedom of Information Act was first enacted in 1966 and updated 50 years later in 2016 after a lengthy process that started in 1955. Freedom of Information Week is celebrated as part of Sunshine Week, a week devoted to educating the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy.
Celebrating this day (and this week) in schools – from elementary to secondary – can be done in a variety of ways. If you would like to build your own lesson plan(s), check out the variety of resources available from the National Archives and an FOIA Libguide developed by Georgia Southern University. There are also many resources available as starting points, like the Whistleblower Project’s “25 Moments That Changed History,” the US Department of Justice’s FOIA 50th Anniversary video, and C-Span’s National Freedom of Information Day audio and video series. This set of graphic organizers about open government and freedom of information is an excellent resource for research assignments. The infographic below is the perfect introduction to the Freedom of Information Act.
If you would prefer a ready-made lesson to use as is or modify, there are several available. These ESL and Lesson Planet lesson plans contain a variety of activities, including a quiz. Lessons are also available for specific topics like Sunshine Week, the Freedom of Information Act, freedom of speech, and world press freedom. In addition, the National Archives DocsTeach site has an amazing interactive activity in which students examine documents released under the Freedom Of Information Act from the FBI case file about Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama entitled “The Impact of Bloody Sunday in Selma.”
Celebrating Freedom of Information day is an educational adventure into the past, present, and future! As always, check out TeachersFirst for more resources, and happy Freedom of Information Day!