Flag Day is in June, and Independence Day is hot on its heels. ‘Tis the season to show our great nation the respect it deserves, and that starts in the classroom. Old Glory has grown right along with the country it represents. If you’ve been wondering about proper flag etiquette so you can pass it on to your students and children, here’s a brief primer that will take you through the history of the flag as well as the proper way to treat it.
A Short History of the American Flag
While we tend to associate the American flag with the famous Betsy Ross, her design is not the one we use today. While it had the modern thirteen stripes, the stars were significantly fewer (also 13) and arranged in a circle on a background of blue. The American flag we now know went through several iterations as the number of states increased – each represented by a star – finally landing on the full 50 stars in 1959. Today it boasts of the longest streak of use in our flag’s history.
How to Properly Fold the Flag
Flag etiquette includes, believe it or not, only one proper way to fold a flag. It involves two people standing opposite, holding the flag the long way. One folds the stripes over the stars, then both people hold the new corners. Fold lengthwise again, then create a triangle at one corner that reaches all the way to the other. Continue to fold this triangle along its edge until you have a complete triangle with only blue visible on top. Here is an excellent video to demonstrate the technique.
Retiring Flags that Are No Longer Serviceable
Today, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is all the rage; but while you might consider using a flag for other purposes, that goes against our country’s code. According to The American Legion, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Most likely you will not demonstrate this in your classroom, but it’s good information for students to have. Let them know that the only proper use of the flag is for display.
If you’re ready to celebrate Flag Day and Independence Day in style, you can prepare for them by obtaining a flag or two for the class to practice folding, and one to hang on your wall if you don’t have one already. Fun activities include making flags from construction paper, and designing personal flags to represent children’s imaginary countries. Just be sure to lead with that flag etiquette, and you’ll be fostering a sense of respect in community in every student.