Flags, Flags, Flags… and a CONTEST!!!!

As a guest post this week, Mike Cronin of Gettysburg Flag Works, shares some things you can do in the classroom and has agreed to SPONSOR A FLAG CONTEST where one lucky reader will WIN A FREE FLAG!!!!  The details can be found in the blog post so make sure you read the entire post!!!!–BB


As we educate students about American history, we tend to focus more on the events than on the civic observances that are part of history, too. However, understanding that Memorial Day is about more than parades and barbecues, and that there is a correct and incorrect way to display an American flag is also an important part of our culture.

Often, we end up teaching students rote memorization of historical facts; especially when it comes to American history. We focus on the significant people, events and dates that shaped our country. However, we don’t pay much attention to the observances and traditions that are also part of the bedrock of our history.

Specifically, educators and parents generally don’t spend much time teaching the significance and proper display of American flags. Though it’s common knowledge that the stripes represent the original 13 colonies and the stars represent the states, it’s lesser known that the color red denotes valor and hardiness, the color white shows innocence and purity, and the color blue signifies justice, vigilance, and perseverance.

Consider teaching your children or students about the culture and tradition surrounding the proper use and display of the American flag. Here are some basic dos and don’ts for appropriate flag display.


  • Display the flag during the day, specifically, from sunrise to sunset
  • Illuminate the flag if it’s being displayed at night.
  • Mount the flag with the blue portion in the upper left hand corner, whether it’s on a flagpole, wall, or window.
  • Raise the flag quickly
  • Lower the flag ceremoniously
  • Raise the flag to the top of the pole for a moment and then lower back to half-staff position when flying the flag at half-staff. This also applies when lowering the flag at the end of the day.


  • Display the flag at night, unless it’s properly illuminated.
  • Let the flag touch the floor, ever.
  • Display the flag upside down

Once students understand the “how” of flag display, it’s also important that they know the “why”. That is, why we pledge our allegiance to it. The Pledge of Allegiance is more than a bunch of words that they memorize when they get to kindergarten; I know that it was one of the first things I learned in school, but it was just repetition — no one actually taught me why we were saying them.

For young children, it can help to teach the meanings of the words in the Pledge, so that we’re putting it in a language that they can understand, rather than simply teaching them to recite words that they’ve memorized.

This is especially important in light of the new emphasis on evidence-based observations and the C4 Framework. It’s too easy for children to view history as not impacting their lives; often, it seems obscure and too long ago for it to matter, even with respect to the rights and freedoms we enjoy. By tying historical events to current observances, we can attempt to make the history seem fresh and — most importantly — relevant to their lives.

One activity that you could do with young students is to have them draw a picture of how they would display an American flag, and why. Ask for detail; perhaps to honor a family member who either fought in a war or otherwise served in the military, to show appreciation for a right or freedom that they understand in a concrete way, or even recognition of a holiday that helps them to remember the things that make this country unique and special.

We’d love to hear your ideas for activities and lessons that can teach students about the traditions and culture behind our flag, our allegiance to it, and the important holidays and civic observances we celebrate. Let’s remind America’s youth that these dates are much more than missed schooldays, fireworks, barbecues, and fun in the sun.

Please share your thoughts below in the comment section no later than May 1st for a chance to win a flag of your choosing from Gettysburg Flag at a $75.00 value! Gettysburg Flag has been making flags, flagpoles, banners, and other related items for over 20 years and is happy to send a gift to the educators that strive to teach our children more than the mere facts, but the significance behind historical events.


There you have it folks, Gettysburg Flag Works has graciously offered one reader a flag.  The contest has been described above.  We will draw one random winner from those who enter!  Good luck!!!  Stop by his website as well and tell him DSS sent you!!!

About bradburenheide

I'm an Associate Professor at Kansas State University's College of Education. Currently I am the program coordinator for secondary social studies education. My research interests include instructional gaming, history education, and creative pedagogy.

4 thoughts on “Flags, Flags, Flags… and a CONTEST!!!!

  1. As a former Cubmaster, now working with Girl Scouts, I know both programs stress flag knowledge and awareness. Unfortunately, not every student is a part of the program. As a geography teacher, a nice entry in to a country is its flag. There is so much to understand about a country in what they choose to put in to their flag. The history of the American flag is much more obscure than some other flags, but holds such importance. My dream was to find a good 49 star flag to recall that one year that it stood as a symbol of the United States! Interestingly, Hawaii and Alaska both joined the Union in the same year, but the flag changes on July 4, and only one was a state before, one after. As far as bringing about the importance of holidays, that is more difficult. How do we take Memorial Day away from blockbuster films, and give the reverence due? By not Bowling Alone, but instead joining civic organizations, understanding the role of community action, and being a part of something bigger, not an individual. It goes beyond the classroom, and in to the community: parades, service events, and recognitions. It is on all of us to realize the role of labor, diversity, our military, and our shared values of freedoms. We must be sure to be true our history, our culture, our heritage, and not simply caught up in symbolism that reflects the current political climate. Every good historian knows the flag has been grabbed for many causes over the years, but has ultimately stood for so much deeper and more meaningful. We must help our students grasp that depth.

    1. Jeff,

      Thanks for the comment! We do treat the flag very differently than the past.

      FYI – just finished a lesson with a group of teachers yesterday that focused on the original Bellamy flag salute. Lots of fun!


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