It started small this year in just one Manatee County school, Freedom Elementary in East Manatee.
Students in Amanda Hirst’s third-grade class at Freedom Elementary received a 10-part class on Old Glory, learning about flag etiquette, history and patriotism.
Titled the American Flag Protocol Initiative, the program is a partnership between the Manatee Veterans Council and the Manatee School District, and is set to expand in the fall to other Manatee County elementary schools.
The classroom teacher presents the first nine sessions, and is joined on the 10th session by local veterans and Junior ROTC cadets. Students are quizzed on what they learned, practice properly folding the flag, talk to a veteran about their service and then receive a completion certificate signed by a veteran, said program chair Tom Piazze.
“The veteran presents the certificate to the student, along with a booklet they can take home to their family,” said Piazze, a retired infantry lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran. “All that takes place in one hour.”
Jillian Bieber, social studies curriculim specialist for the school district, said a workshop is planned for Aug. 4 to expand the class to other teachers.
“We would like to hold the classes as a run-up to Veterans Day, but some schools will probably have their classes between June and April of 2017,” Bieber said.
The centerpiece of the program is 10 50-minute lessons on understanding the origin of the American flag, meaning of the flag, American flag timeline, importance of patriotism, respect for the flag, and showing respect and retiring the flag, Piazze said.
The program was launched in Sarasota County in 2013 with 22 elementary school teachers from 10 of Sarasota’s 27 elementary schools participating, he said.
Manatee Veterans Council won approval to begin introducing the program in Manatee County in March.
Flag Day will be celebrated 6-7:30 p.m. June 12 at Patriot Plaza, Sarasota National Cemetery. This year marks the 239th birthday of Old Glory.