It all started with our field trip to the Shriners Circus years ago. This circus is a perfect event for preschoolers as it’s grand but not overwhelming. My class was seated and ready. The circus began with lowering a big American flag and singing our National Anthem. I had no idea this would happen. So, of course I stood, put my hand over my heart, and began to sing.
I looked at the children and they were playing. I looked at the parents and they were chatting away. I was horrified. Immediately I began rushing to each child and showing them how to stand and placing their little hands over their hearts. I must have looked like someone who was frantically putting out fires, because that’s exactly what I was doing. I was desperately trying to stop the ambivalence.
I knew I had plenty of teaching to do ahead. My first step was to teach the children about our flag, since that was what they remembered from the circus. I had a parent who was retired from the Navy bring a flag to school and tell the children all about it. It was wonderful! Why had I not thought about doing this before? Seeing, touching, and learning about the flag shouldn’t wait until elementary school. I learned along with the children. Do you know the nickname of our flag? I do.
My next step was our National Anthem, and there is no better book than Peter Spier’s The Star Spangled Banner to teach this to young children. Each line in the song is a full color illustration, which ignites plenty of questions and conversation. We poured through this book, and ended up getting a piece of American history. We talked about how the rockets were the only source of light to see the flag. Then we talked about battles, and flying the flag showed who was winning. One child looked at an illustration and said, “That must be a towering steep.” She was right! The book includes the second and third versus, all with full illustrations. I was surprised that I could still sing those by heart, and the children were surprised, too.
Singing; that was the next part of teaching. We needed to sing patriotic songs. Singing is universal when it comes to expressing the heart and soul of how you feel. The children loved singing “God Bless America”. After we learned the song, they decided to sing it amongst themselves and then for other classes on the playground. They couldn’t get enough, so I arranged for soldiers to visit on Veteran’s Day so we could sing for them. It was a wonderful event, yet the children wanted more. I could tell. We made a “God Bless America” book where we wrote all the words and drew the pictures. What a treasure! Still, this love for the song and the underlying passion for patriotism was not satisfied.
Patriotism continued to grow in the classroom. It exploded in the best of ways. Stay tuned!