Patriotism in the Classroom

I am a very patriotic person. I am proud to be an American; and I show it! Many of the children who come into our centers have parents in the military; I'm proud of those parents. It breaks my heart that these families qualify for state funding; these men and women protect our country, protect our freedom, and they need financial assistance to help them live.

Anyway, I think that it's important to teach our children to have pride in where we live as well. It's a social skill: we are part of a group. They learn to be proud of where they live, that they are part of a larger society, and a bit of history. So, how do I teach this?

First, every morning we have a powwow time. This is separate from circle and lasts about 5-10 minutes. This is where to take roll, talk about the calendar, discuss the day, and (most importantly) say the pledge of allegiance. For those of you who don't know the words:
I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the republic
for which it stands
one nation
under God
with liberty and justice for all

We start saying the pledge allegiance about the time the children turn three. The two year old class, I give the option of saying it formerly because of developmental reasons. The three year old say it formerly everyday. We teach them to put their right hand over their heart. As they are saying it, we gently switch hands if necessary. Eventually, they get it right straight away. We also require them to take off their hats if they are wearing them. We treat this as a sacred event everyday; so they look at it as such. Let me tell you, anybody who comes in to substitute for the day hears about it from the children: "YOU FORGOT THE FLAG!!!"

We have had one student whose mother didn't want her saying the pledge of allegiance for religious reasons. This is fine; I respect that (I am an American after all). She was, however, required to stand out of respect for the culture. She didn't have to say it; and mom worked with her in explaining why she didn't participate. But, just as I would go to their church and respect their practices; she needs to learn to respect ours as a culture.

Along with the flag salute, we also sing patriotic songs throughout the year. Of course, we have to stay away from the religious ones (we are state funded); but Star Spangled Banned (of course), Yankee Doodle, This Land is My Land, My Country Tis of Thee, and others.

The other things we do is celebrate National Holidays and talk about what they mean. For the younger ones, this is talked about through their play and what we do: art work in red, white and blue, books available about famous people and times, etc... For the four year olds, we talk about these things at circle time. They learn about Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King, the Presidents, and everything else. They don't go in depth any further than they can handle and understand.

As I subtly mentioned before, we don't celebrate many holidays in our center. Actually, we only celebrate National ones...our Nation. We have special activities just before Fourth of July, we discuss and celebrate Presidents in February, we talk about Thanksgiving and have a special family night for that, and discuss other Holidays that celebrate the history and meaning of the great United States.
We also teach the children where they are from. We begin the year by talking about what school they go to. Once they learn that, we talk about the city that school is in. From there we move on to the state, and finally the United States! Yes, we also talk about it being part of the world and the universe. We have city maps, state maps, and globes in the preschool classrooms. On the city maps, we label where the children's houses are. We also label the school and other interesting things (zoo, field trip locations, etc...). On the state and world maps we mark the city location. This helps them to visualize where we are and how small we are compared to the whole world.
I do think we need to teach the children about the world and diversity; but before we do that, we need to teach them to be proud to be who they are. We are Americans! That's pretty great!

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