Teaching Strategies

5-Minute Film Festival: Happy Independence Day!

To help you celebrate Independence Day, Edutopia’s VideoAmy has put together a Fourth-of-July-themed collection of inspiring, interesting, and fun videos.

July 4, 2014

For many Americans, the Fourth of July means feasting, family, and fireworks. And of course, this favorite hot-weather holiday marks the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776. Although it's long been debated whether the document was actually signed on the fourth of July, the date has become iconic and is cause for celebration around the country. I've gathered a playlist of quasi-educational videos about Independence Day -- to learn a little more, but mostly for summertime fun.

Video Playlist: Fourth of July for Teachers

Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.

  1. History of the 4th of July (05:29)

    First let's get a little background, from Crash Course, a channel of educational videos produced by internet video stars Hank and John Green. They offer resources for a range of subjects, from history to science.

  2. Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration (03:21)

    Soomo Publishing brought us the brilliant "Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage" video I've previously featured, and this one does not disappoint. It's an edu-parody of 2007's "Apologize" by One Republic.

  3. The Chemistry of Fireworks (06:31)

    This fun little piece by the American Chemical Society takes you into the lab with Dr. John A. Conkling, author of Chemistry of Pyrotechnics, to show us the science behind what makes those explosions so fantastic.

  4. James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass (04:49)

    Lest we forget that the original Declaration of Independence was not meant for everyone, here actor James Earl Jones reads a powerful piece by Frederick Douglass, "Fourth of July Speech, 1852." Sorry for the low quality video, but the speech is worth it!

  5. Fourth of July for Math Nerds (02:19)

    YouTuber Josh Sundquist makes videos that graph out all the numbers associated with various bits of pop culture, with tongue firmly in cheek. Find more of them on this math nerds playlist.

  6. An Idiot's Guide to the Declaration of Independence (03:29)

    Teacher Keith Hughes' HipHughes History YouTube channel is chock-full of edgy and fast-paced videos about U.S. and World History. Whether you're cramming for an exam or simply brushing up, Mr. Hughes breaks it down for you. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

  7. Schoolhouse Rock! Fireworks (03:05)

    I can never resist throwing in a little Schoolhouse Rock! when I can -- these videos were a staple of my childhood. Besides, what a rockin' nostalgic tune this is!

  8. Reading of the Declaration of Independence (09:42)

    Famous actors reading the actual text of the Declaration of Independence. Need I say more? There is also this website with teaching materials and more information about the (now defunct?) Declaration of Independence Road Trip this video was made for.

  9. San Diego Fireworks 2012, LOUD and Up Close (00:36)

    Turn the volume down before clicking this one, folks -- this video answers the age-old question "What would happen if we lit ALL the fireworks at once?" From San Diego in 2012, where a technical glitch caused the planned 18-minute show to happen in 15 seconds.

More Resources for the Fourth of July

I'll be brief, as I know there are grilled goodies to eat and epic explosions to watch -- so, if you're interested in more resources on this holiday, check out Matt Davis' blog post on Edutopia "Red, White, and Blue Learning: Seven Resources for Independence Day." I also wrote up a really fun Five-Minute Film Festival last year about re-inventing civics education, "Remixing Civics." Now go celebrate!

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