IN 23 UTAH SCHOOLS, the U.S. Constitution is not being taken for granted.

Forty-six teachers in 11 districts are participating in an educational project funded by the National Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution and cosponsored by the Utah Law-Related Education Project and the Utah State Office of Education.

The project meets the needs of teachers by providing background information on the Constitution that will not only expand the social studies program but can be integrated into the basic curriculum guidelines. It was felt that additional training was needed to teach students at all elementary school levels about democracy.

"Most critical were resources," said Carol Lear, the project's director. "Schools were desperate for books, media and exemplary outlines about the Constitution, with help on how to utilize them in the classroom. The fundamental understanding of the Constitution and the values inherent in it could not be taught without materials to adequately give instruction."

Under the U.S. Constitution Project, teachers from selected schools, with their principals, participate in training sessions during the 1988-89 school year provided by experts in the areas of politics, education and law. They will receive resource materials to help them develop ideas appropriate for each grade level. A central library has been developed by Nancy Mathews, Utah State Office of Education, to supplement the books, media and kits that are distributed to individual schools.

And the teachers are participating in an effort to spread the benefits of the books and literature into the community, relaying the knowledge and materials to parents, younger grades and public libraries. These teachers will also serve as mentors and consultants to 20 additional schools for the 1989-90 school year.

The final product of the project will be an annotated bibliography of literature on and about the U.S. Constitution.

Representative of the 23 schools now involved in the U.S. Constitution Project is Beehive Elementary School in the Granite School District, where fourth-grade teacher Nadine Stupelli and Nick Barber, a sixth-grade teacher, work daily on concepts about the U.S. Constitution.

Citizenship Day, Sept. 17, was acknowledged, and on-going projects are integrated into the daily classroom activities, such as reading fiction and nonfiction about colonial times, listing the 13 original states, singing the "Preamble Song" and writing readers theater performances to be shown in all classrooms.

Basic to all of the lists and to the fiction and facts is the personal commitment of each student to understanding and respecting the U.S. Constitution.

Jason Jones and Wade Nelson write about obeying the laws and rules of the land, fully acknowledging the importance of good citizenship. Justin Cleveland knows about how important it is for him to salute the flag - a symbol of Democracy - in a proper manner. Since the state and federal elections are an integral part of understanding the Constitution, Mae Williams intends to encourage her parents to vote.

Like the first elections of 200 years ago, Beehive Elementary students have voted for the first time for their own student government.

"Installing a school president, vice president, secretary and senator, with a mayor from each class, meant understanding the rules and regulations surrounding choices and freedom to make decisions," explained Principal Marcie MacDonald. "And it was exciting for the children to actually see the state primary elections going on in our building as well."

Kathy Craven, a parent of children at Beehive Elementary School, found the idea of "popularity versus responsibility" an interesting dilemma in some young voters' decisions. "There was an awareness that voting for a `best friend' may not always be the best way to find a responsible person that represented the class in making constructive playground and classroom policies."

It is Justice Burger's intent that Constitution Week become a permanent, national commemoration. Perhaps Jason, Wade and Mae - and the other 1,300 participating children - will, 10 years from now, register to vote, prepare to hold public office and reflect on "The Constitution: American Legacy" because it was an integral part of the school curriculum.