Male Voice: Miss Lawrence’s first graders are studying one of the most fundamental topics in their young lives, families. Students have read books about families. They’ve created a family tree, and they’ve asked tough questions like, “What makes a family a family?” Exploring concepts like tradition, communication and identity.
Interviewer: Identity, say identity.
Male Voice: All this hard work has prepared them for today’s activity.
Interviewer: Representing your family’s identity on a flag. All right, you’re gonna make your own flag to represent your family’s identity. How are you gonna do that? You’re gonna use two major things. One main thing is you’re gonna use colors. Another one is symbols and pictures.
Male Voice: The class looks at some examples of flags.
Interviewer: What flag is this? What place is this from? It’s California. It was important to me in the flag project that students felt a very strong connection to their flag, and they felt that it really represented and connected to them and their family.
These next flags—there are some of you in the room who may have special connections to these.
So when I put flags out, I purposely chose flags that represented children in that class. That I knew that their families had connections to, because I wanted them when I pulled them out there to do exactly what they did, which is like, “Oh, that’s my mom and dad.”
Does anyone know what this flag is? I’m gonna leave ‘em out here so you can keep looking at ‘em, please don’t touch ‘em.
Interviewer: It is, it’s India. I do think there’s a couple people in here who might have a strong connection to that country. Does anyone know what flag this is?
Interviewer: It is, it’s Iran. Yeah. That’s the way to pull them in, not just their attention, but also to really get them thinking and excited about it.
Interviewer: It is, it’s Mexico.
Male Voice: Beyond simply identifying the flags, Mrs. Lawrence wants her students to look deeper into their meanings.
Interviewer: What do you think the green here represents in this flag?
Respondent: The land.
Interviewer: Okay, it does have to do with the land. The red—what about the black? You know what the white means, tell us Jaylin.
Interviewer: Peace, good Jaylin, you do know—who told you that?
Respondent: My grandma and grandpa.
Interviewer: Very good, so they passed that knowledge down to you, that’s really great. I didn’t want them just to pick a flag that is part of their family’s history. For some kids that is a strong connection, but for others it’s not.
Symbols can tell a story. I want your flag to tell a story through the symbols and colors you choose.
So rather just saying, “Pick a flag from one of your ancestors.” I wanted them to create their own.
Male Voice: She introduces some elements that they might use in their next task, creating their flags.
Interviewer: Sometimes you might have ribbons. Sometimes flags have patterns. Sometimes they put years. This was the year the state became a part of the United States. You might put what? What year is important to you and your family?
Respondent: The year where you were born?
Interviewer: Yeah, the year and the date when you were born. You might put that on your flag. The most important thing is that you represent your lovely, beautiful, wonderful family that loves you in a proud way, okay.
When we’re talking about families, I often think about my own experiences. When I was a child learning about my identity and trying to understand it, especially as someone who is biracial and had some things go on in my childhood that were difficult that I didn’t understand. I really feel like it’s important to talk about it.
An animal that I was thinking about is a zebra ‘cuz I like zebras, I think they’re magnificent animals. But my family is also black and white, and that’s important to me and my family’s identity.
In helping them feel proud of themselves, proud of their family. I do hope that it helps start to build in them a strength of self that will help them later on in life continue to be strong.
Male Voice: Bursting with ideas, the students get to work on a first draft of their family flags.
Respondent: It says Jamaica at the bottom.
Respondent: Because my mom lived in Poland.
Respondent: I’m drawing the ocean because my family likes to go to the beach.
Interviewer: I can’t wait, I have to ask you, tell me about the animals on there?
Respondent: It’s because my family likes to go on hikes.
Interviewer: And you see animals on those hikes. I love that, that’s beautiful Isa. There are a lot of people from lots of different places who are here with us in our community, in our classroom, in our school and in the world. And part of understanding each other is understanding people’s identities, what makes them who they are.
There’s things about yourself that are important to you. There’s things about your family that are important to you that you want others to respect. I think that for social studies this is essential because if you really, truly want to be a productive part of a community, whether it’s local or worldwide, that’s one of the first steps, opening your heart, opening your mind to finding out about other people, and respecting the things that are important to them.