Soon we’ll be enjoying an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration with parades, picnics, concerts, and fireworks. Red, white, and blue will be the colors of the day. Whether you attend a special family gathering or a community event, there are plenty of activities to commemorate the birth of America. The suggestions below focus on the theme of patriotism. Adapt them to the interests and abilities of your group. Here’s to a star-spangled celebration!
- DISCUSSION – Read the poem titled “America for Me” by Henry Van Dyke and encourage participants to share what they consider the best line from the poem. Ask: Has anyone in the group traveled abroad? Which countries did you visit? What makes America a unique place to live? Do you agree with the poet’s sentiments? What do you like best about the USA?
- REMINISCE – Celebrate “Made in the USA” with a mock car show. Show photos of classic cars from the 1940s – 1960s, and ask participants to name the make and model. Watch an old car auction on TV. Pass around old car magazines. Ask: What kinds of vehicles did you drive? How important was it to buy a car “Made in America” from one of the Big Three automakers? Tell us about your favorite car. Poll the group to find out if anyone owned a red, blue, or white car.
- REMINISCE – Show vintage photos of 4th of July celebrations in small towns. Ask: How did your family celebrate the 4th of July? Describe your participation in outings/events such as the following: air and fireworks show, antique car show, fishing derby, tractor pull, pig and corn roast, Little League baseball game, patriotic band concert, apple pie bake-off, Boy Scout flag ceremony. Sip lemonade or iced tea as your group shares special Independence Day traditions.
- FOOD – Prepare (and taste) a simple recipe from a former U.S. First Lady (ex: Barbara Bush’s chocolate chip cookies – recipe available on the Internet). Watch A Capitol Fourth concert from Washington, D.C., on local PBS stations.
- FOOD – Celebrate National Ice Cream Month with an old-fashioned ice cream social. Gather vanilla ice cream, marshmallows, whipped cream, red/blue sprinkles, strawberry and blueberry fruit toppings, cherries. Invite your group to make patriotic sundaes.
- DRAMA – Enlist a volunteer to wear a white Colonial wig and read the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. (Prepare a copy in large-print type.) Talk about America’s fundamental values proclaimed in the document and whether the country still reflects those values. Highlight some of America’s Founding Fathers -Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams, or John Hancock. (Check the History Channel for related documentaries.)
- DRAMA – Watch a patriotic musical such as Yankee Doodle Dandy or 1776.
- MUSIC – Listen to a CD of fife and drum music heard during the American Revolution. Sing “Yankee Doodle.” Share memories of a trip to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
- MUSIC – Listen to a popular John Philip Sousa march, like “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” March in place (standing or sitting) and wave small flags. Ask: Did you fly a flag at your home on patriotic holidays? How do you feel when you see the flag waving against a clear blue sky? What other songs make you think of the flag?
- MUSIC – Pay homage to “the sweet land of liberty.” Sing old patriotic songs such as the following: “America,” “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America,” “God Bless the USA,” “This Is My Country,” “This Land Is Your Land.” Reminisce about travelling over the 4th of July to historic landmarks and national parks.
- MUSIC – Honor men and women in the military and veterans. Invite members of a local VFW or American Legion to hold a flag ceremony at the facility. Listen to military songs: “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Marines’ Hymn,” “Semper Paratus” (official Coast Guard march) and “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” Invite a bugler to play “Reveille” and “Taps.” Show old World War II uniforms and badges. Ask: Did anyone enlist in the armed services? What sacrifices did you and your family make to be in the military? What other ways can an American serve his or her country?
- ACTIVITY – “As American As…” Collage: Gather magazines and catalogs with lots of colorful photographs. Cut white poster board in the shape of the United States and ask the group to fill the space with images that remind them of America (ex: baseball, Coca-Cola, apple pie, Statue of Liberty, Superman).
- ACTIVITY – Make festive table decorations. Dye white carnations using red and blue food coloring. Assemble a floral centerpiece in a patriotic container. Insert red, white, and blue star picks in the center. Line the center of the table with “tissue paper firecrackers.” (See the ElderSong resource Crafts Through the Year for craft instructions.)
- ACTIVITY – Encourage participants to wear red, white, or blue shirts and patriotic hats. Decorate the meeting room with red/white/blue star-shaped balloons, streamers, small flags, and bunting. Display vintage patriotic postcards, Norman Rockwell posters, old 4th of July Saturday Evening Post covers, U.S. symbols such as the American bald eagle, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam, White House. Ask group members to complete the following sentence: I feel patriotic when…
- INTERGENERATIONAL – Organize a mini-parade with a young children’s group, using decorated wagons, bicycles, and strollers. Make homemade musical instruments for a rhythm band (ex: pie tin and spoons). Wear Uncle Sam hats. Hang a patriotic piñata. Invite a baton twirler to perform. Organize a treasure hunt. Wave USA banners and flags.
JULY FOURTH TRIVIA QUIZ
- Who took a famous “midnight ride” in April 1775 to warn that the British were coming? Paul Revere
- Which American patriot delivered the “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech in 1775? Patrick Henry
- Who led the Continental Army during the American Revolution? George Washington
- Who was the author of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence? Thomas Jefferson
- When was the Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress? July 4, 1776
- What three “unalienable rights” are named in the Declaration of Independence? Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness
- What is the name of America’s national anthem, written by Francis Scott Key? “The Star-Spangled Banner”
- Who is believed to have sewn the first official American flag? Betsy Ross
- Where is the Liberty Bell kept? Independence Hall, Philadelphia
- What are some names for the American flag? Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes, the Red, White & Blue
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” ~ Ben Franklin
“JULY 4TH – HOORAY FOR THE RED, WHITE, & BLUE” written by Sue Hansen. © 2012 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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