Free Civic Studies Lesson 12: The Flag

The meaning of a flag and the history of “Old Glory.”

Read the current chapter online: “The Flag of the Union.”


Learn more about the American flag:

Long before men had learned to build houses and churches and cities, and long before they knew how to manufacture the bunting and silk of which our flags are made today, they used the skins of animals or the feathers of a bird fastened to a long pole to show the tribe or band to which they belonged, and to signal to one another. Men traveling long distances through the forest knew by this whether they were meeting friends or foes….

We know to what nation a ship belongs by the flag it displays. In the language of flags, white indicates a truce and red, danger, as when explosives are being transported. Dipping the flag is a sign of respect, flying it at half-mast, a sign of mourning, hoisting it upside down, an appeal for help. Striking, or hauling down, a flag is a signal of surrender….

Different flags tell us many different kinds of things, but there is one flag which always tells us the same thing, and that is the flag of our country.

The colors — red, white and blue — are symbolic. “Red is for courage, zeal, fervency; white is for purity, cleanness of life and rectitude of conduct; blue is for loyalty, devotion, friendship, justice and truth.”

“The Story of the American Flag” from The Book of Knowledge

Additional Resources

Flags of the World
From the CIA World Factbook.

Early Flags
A few you may not have heard of.

Betsy Ross and the American Flag
Frequently asked questions.

Mr. Flag Maker
Address by former Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane.

Flag Day Celebrated
Information from The Library of Congress for Kids site.


Fort McHenry Cam

The Star-Spangled Banner
Interactive flag from the Smithsonian.

Deconstructing History: American Flag
Video from the History Channel. (You may want to install an ad blocker before viewing.)

Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag by Ann Weil
Part of the Childhood of Famous Americans series, simple biography for younger readers.

Manual of Patriotism
Written for public schools, includes songs, poems, and quite a bit of flag history.

Our Flag
Free 52-page color download.

Units & Lesson Plans

Free History Studies: The Star-Spangled Banner
Learn more about Francis Scott Key, Fort McHenry, and the Star-Spangled Banner!

Flag Day: A Unit Study

Flag Day: A Unit Study
Many, many more resources in our free unit!

Educational Resource Handbook
Enormous 93-page download from The American Flag Foundation that includes activities and printables.

Notebooking Pages & Printables

United States Flag Coloring Page
From Crayola.

American Flag Lapbook

The Flag Notebooking Pages
Our free and simple notebooking pages for copywork, narrations, dictations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the entire series:
Free Civics Studies
Free Civics Studies: The Century Book for Young Americans

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