This was a couple of years ago, so I don't remember all the details, and I adjusted it for the next year. The first year, I talked about 9/11 and asked what the kids knew about it. I made sure to talk about all the different placed that were attacked and the different people who responded or even went on the offensive to help and protect. Most of the kids were born in 2001. I then had them think about the following questions:
Why is 9/11 important to remember?
Did 9/11 change the United States forever?
What did the heroes of 9/11 sacrifice for others?
What is an American?
After a little more discussion, I had them write an answer to one of the questions on their strip. (Each long stripe is 2 small strips put together.) Then we assembled it into an American flag. I love they way that each kid had a part in the creation of our flag. It took a group to complete it, just as we are a nation that pulled together in the time of need.
We hung in in our school hallway and a parent actually asked to pay for the shipping to send it to a NY fire station.
The next year, I did a smaller version of this. It didn't have the cooperative part of creating a big flag. Part of reason for the change was to put the emphasis more on the action of the responders instead of the actual event. This year, all the kids were born AFTER 9/11 even happened.
Each student created their own 9x12 flag (normal construction paper size) and wrote their own definition of a hero on the white stripes. It was definitely a smaller activity, but I feel that we were able to have a good discussion about helping others and doing what is right.
Even though my emphasis was based around 9/11 and all the different kinds of heroes from that event, this activity could easily be adapted for Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, or any other event that causes for people to reflect and think about others.