As Our Nation Grows, the Flag Marches Westward

As Our Nation Grows, the Flag Marches Westward
Mary Lincoln: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods

Standards Compliance
NCSS Strand 2
Time, Continuity, and Change
NCSS Strand 5
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
NCSS Strand 10
Civic Ideals and Practices
NCTE Standard 1
Students read fiction, nonfiction, classic, and contemporary works to acquire information for various purposes.
NCTE Standard 3
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
NCTE Standard 7
Students conduct research by generating ideas, questions, and problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data.
NCTE Standard 8
Students use a variety of technology and information resources to gather, synthesize, and communicate knowledge.
NCTE Standard 12
Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.
ISTE Standard 5
Technology research tools


The westward growth of the American nation during Mary Lincoln’s life was exceptional.  As the major symbol of our nation, the flag, kept up with the changing borders.


The purpose of this lesson is to demonstrate the importance of symbols, especially the flag, to the identity of the American nation, even though the symbol changes form to match the changes in the country itself.    

Materials Required:

Acces to the Internet; the American Flag timeline link; access to print reference materials; art materials.


1.  Clarify the meaning of “symbol” for students.

2.  Ask students to list all the symbols for our nation that they can.

3.  Focusing on the flag, ask if they know how many different flags we’ve had as a nation (26).  Explain that many of the different flags were changes caused by the admission of another state(s).

4.  Ask if they know the design of our original flag (the Betsy Ross flag).

5.  Using print and web resources, have students trace the design timeline of the American flag. 

6.  As a “new” flag is identified, compare it with the previous flag to determine differences.  As major changes occur, have a student sketch the new flag.  When the lesson is complete, you will have constructed a timeline and a design-line of the flag and will have reviewed the growth of the United States from the original 13 states to the admission of Alaska and Hawaii.

Extending the Lesson:

If geography would assist in this lesson, the students can identify the dates of admission of new states to the Union and can see where major changes in our map equaled major changed in our flag.

Sources & Resources:


   Timeline of the Evolution of the American Flag

    History of the American Flag


This lesson was created and developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.