Flag Week: 8 Ways Kids Can Learn More About Our Nation’s History and Government

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On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, which consisted of representatives of the colonies, passed a resolution approving the design of a national flag:  Resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation. In 1949 and 1966, respectively, Congress requested the President annually issue a proclamation designating June 14 and the week in which this day occurs, as “Flag Day” and “National Flag Week,” respectively. Take advantage of this national day to help kids become more knowledgeable about our nation’s history and government, and related topics.

History

1. Find out more about the beginnings of our nation and flag:  Review with your kids the fact that those who settled in America lived in colonies, and the colonists were subject to the British government, fighting for independence in the Revolutionary War. The first national flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars— ask your kids why the number 13 was chosen and if anything is different on our flag of today (see pictures A and B below for today vs. 1777 flag).

Flag day image from the Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/wiseguide/jun07/flag.html

Flag day image from the Library of Congress

Geography and Social Studies

2. Learn more about our geographic relation to other parts of the world: Let your kids know that in the 17th century, people sailed from places like England and settled in the easternmost part of the country. Get a world map and see where England is located in relation to this part of the U.S. How long do you think it would take to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the ships used at that time? Have your kids act out a trip across the ocean—what might be some challenges encountered? Would you need a lot of supplies? How would you get your water?

Arts Connections

3. Learn more about color: See if your kids know what the red, white, and blue of the flag symbolize. Red and blue are called primary colors, because they can’t be made from other colors, but you can make other colors using them. For example, what color is the result of mixing blue and red? Have kids try mixing colors interactively to see what they can create.

4. Make a flag for Flag Week: Or instead of the nation’s flag, ask your kids what they would make to represent our country—what colors, what symbols, or patterns? Or see if they would like to make a flag online for their room, using different symbols and colors to represent their interests.

5. Learn more about the nation’s anthem: Francis Scott Key, inspired by seeing the flag still present after the 1814 Battle of Baltimore, one of the battles of the War of 1812, wrote our national anthem. Do your kids know the name of the national anthem? Ask your kids if they can sing the entire Star Spangled Banner, without looking up the words. See if your kids know their history with an interactive quiz on events related to the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner.

Civics

6. Learn more about our government: See if your kids know why Congress has the power to take actions like requesting the President make specific proclamations. Tell them it’s because when delegates from the colonies wrote the Constitution of the United States, they divided the government into three parts, with Congress heading up the legislative branch, the part that makes laws and can take such related action.

Science and Math

7. Discover the light spectrum and its colors: ask your kids why we see different colors, including the red and blue of the flag? The 17th-century scientist Isaac Newton, showed that white light is made of different colors when he put a prism—a 3-D triangular piece of glass—up to a sunbeam. So when white light shines through a prism, the white light is broken apart into the colors of the visible light spectrum—which includes the colors red and blue. Water vapor in the atmosphere can also break apart visible light waves, creating a rainbow. The colors of the visible light spectrum are always in the same order. Alert your kids to be on the lookout this summer for the colors of the visible light spectrum in the water spray of the garden hose or in the sky after it rains.

light spectrum

Colors of the visible light spectrum

Reading

8. Learn more by reading: Read books with your kids that will help them understand how our government was formed and functions:

 

The Voice of the People book coverThe Voice of the People: American Democracy in Action
By Betsy Maestro
Shh! We're Writing the ConstitutionShh! We’re Writing the Constitution
By Jean Fritz
How a Bill Becomes a LawHow a Bill Becomes a Law
John Hamilton

 

 

These are a few ideas for the many activities you can enjoy with your kids while instilling a greater appreciation for our nation’s history and flag.

American flag // Civics // Congress // Flag Day // Francis Scott Key // Star Spangled Banner // U.S. Constitution // U.S. History // June 4, 2014