U.S. Symbols Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about symbols of the United States. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie U.S. Symbols. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

A symbol is something that represents something else. Remind your children that they see symbols everywhere, in the classroom, home, and in their neighborhoods. On the road, a green light means go. On a map, a star inside a circle represents the capitol of a state or country. Explain that different symbols can stand for the same thing. For example, a dove and an olive branch are both symbols of peace, a heart and a red rose are symbols of love, and a four-leaf clover and a horseshoe are symbols of good luck. Encourage your children to think of other symbols. We recommend watching the Dollars and Cents movie together to go over U.S. symbols seen on our currency.

There are many symbols associated with the United States, but your children should learn and understand a few major symbols. The American flag is a symbol that represents the entire country. It has fifty stars that represent the fifty states and thirteen stripes that represent the colonies that became the first thirteen states. Many classrooms recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, which is an oath to respect the country. Each state has its own flag, which incorporates symbolic images. Review your state’s flag with your students and discuss each image on the flag. Each state also has other symbols, including a flower, mammal, bird, and even fossil. The national bird is the bald eagle, which was chosen because of its strength and beauty and because leaders wrongly believed that the bird was found only in the United States. Still, the bald eagle represents strength and freedom.

Another important U.S. symbol is the Statue of Liberty. It stands in the New York Harbor and was a gift from France in 1886, as a sign of friendship between the countries. Explain to your children that immigrants are people who move to a different country. Many immigrants traveled to the United States by boat and saw the Statue of Liberty welcome them to their new home. Thus, the statue represents international friendship as well as hope and freedom. Another symbol that represents freedom is the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bell once resided in the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall. It was rung to summon citizens and mark important events and meetings, including the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. The bell cracked and was repaired two times before the one that is on display today.

Your children are probably aware of the White House, the place where the president of the United States works and lives. They should know that the White House is a symbol for the government. Some children may have seen images of Uncle Sam, a white-haired man clad in red, white, and blue. He is a personification of the United States and featured in many illustrations, advertisements, and political cartoons. Children should not confuse Uncle Sam with George Washington, the “father of our country.” George Washington helped the United States become a country and was the first president. Your children should know that there are many monuments dedicated to George Washington and other famous political figures. A monument is a structure that commemorates and honors a person. The Washington Monument is an obelisk in Washington, D.C. our nation’s capitol. The Lincoln Memorial honors Abraham Lincoln, who kept the country together during the Civil War and helped end slavery.

Encourage your children to think of other symbols associated with the United States and their state. Your children can also think of symbols associated with other countries, such as the Great Pyramids in Egypt or the Eiffel Tower in France.