Flags are not simple pieces of fabric waving on top of buildings, ships, vehicles, etc. They are symbols of past struggles, of present virtues and of future aspirations of a country and its inhabitants. They have many similarities but they have also got many differences and distinctive features like etiquettes, protocols and lore. Symbols and shapes in flags come in all sizes and colours, which to the untrained eye may seem meaningless and vague but if we look closer we will see that every flag is unique and serves a purpose.
The learning scenario
“Fun with Flags” (FwF) is a cross-curricular learning scenario intended for 7th Graders (1st Grade of Junior High school, 13-14-year-old students).
The learning scenario was inspired by my favourite blockbuster television series “The Big Bang Theory”, in which, Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) launches a YouTube vodcast show with the title “Fun with flags”. The show comprises various episodes during which Dr. Sheldon Cooper leads us on a journey through the wonderful world of Vexillology: the scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, any interest in flags in general.
Vexillology: the study of flags
The general aim of the scenario is to introduce students to Vexillology, the study of flags. It also aims to promote European citizenship education, encouraging young people to interact effectively, think critically, and act in a socially responsible way and democratically. It is intended to help students understand the importance of flags to a community as well as the symbolism of a flag. The topic of the learning scenario encompasses different curricular areas (Geography, ICT, Art, Citizenship Education) integrated with the English Language Arts (speaking, writing, listening and reading).
Students communicated and collaborated with each other, were engaged in group work, researched the topic, compared and contrasted opinions and views, reached conclusions, made digital products, self and peer evaluated their work and published it on the internet.
First, they created group flags (using Scrontch’s Flag Designer), following the five basic principles of flag design as they are outlined by the NAVA. They uploaded their flags to the lesson’s Padlet and they voted for the best flag!
Then, they researched the European Union countries, flags and capitals at the official website of the European Union, and created a map in GeoPuzzle. GeoPuzzle is an online tool in which one has to drag the shape of the territory to match the right place on the map. This way, in the form of a game, students learn the names and locations of each country and have fun doing it.
In the next teaching session, the students accessed the Europeana platform in order to search, find and download pictures of authentic flags (not a sketch or drawing) for each EU country. They saved the pictures in a folder at the desktop of the computer with the name of their group in order to use the pictures for the project work that followed.
Then, each group of students assumed a role and with the help of the worksheets they created the following products:
- The Vexillographers created the school flag,
- The Vexillologists created a poster in order to advertise their vexillology school club and ask for memberships,
- The Vexillophiles created GIFs and photo collages to display the collection of flags of their school club
- The Vexillonaires studied the EU flag and prepared a presentation which included information such as the flag, symbolism, national anthem, values, currency and languages of the EU.
At the final teaching session, each group presented their work to the class and then they were evaluated by their classmates.
Students enjoyed the lesson and were very satisfied with their work. Although some of them lacked basic ICT skills, with the help of their group mates and the teacher, they managed to finish their assignments successfully.
They were not able to find all the flags of the countries that belong to the EU at the Europeana portal so they suggested that Europeana should add the topic of flags to a collection! In addition, all the images of the flags they had found had copyright issues, so we sent an email to the Royal Museums Greenwich – National Maritime Museum and asked for permission to use the images for the lesson. They granted us the permission to use them and download them free of charge directly from the links, under the terms of their Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) licence.
Finally, students had a lot of fun during the lesson and said that they learnt a lot of things about the EU, flags and vexillology!
Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:
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