Yantis elementary students have fun, learn history by celebrating 192ndbirthday of ‘Star Spangled Banner’
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Yantis Elementary School music teacher Cindy Hassell leads students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, part of a patriotic celebration marking the 192nd anniversary of the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”


Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Sept. 15, 2006 -- It was a red, white and blue birthday celebration for the National Anthem yesterday at Yantis Elementary School and across the country as "The Star Spangled Banner" turned 192 years old.

"We had a big birthday party for the whole elementary school," said music teacher Cindy Hassell, who has been with the district for the past three years. "Everyone wore red, white and blue, we presented flags, and had a patriotic sing-along. And, we ate birthday cake. It's really been a fun time and very educational, as well."

Since 1995, the National Association for Music Education has been encouraging music educators throughout the nation to participate in a program known as "The National Anthem Project."This was the second year Yantis Elementary School has participated in the program, according to Hassell, who has been incorporating essay writing, history games and other patriotic songs into her curriculum for the past two weeks.

"This project teaches our young people what the meaning of the song is," she explained. "We hear it at all the baseball and basketball games, rodeos. We hear it so many places, but so many don't know the story behind it."

It was the year 1814, during the War of 1812,when Francis Scott Key, an American attorney, along with Colonel John Skinner, were granted permission to sail a small vessel out to a British ship off the coast ofMaryland in order to negotiate the release of an American prisoner by the name of Dr. William Beane.

Negotiations were a success; however, the British felt that during the time on the ship, Key and Skinner may have learned of their latest plan of attack against Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Therefore, the Americans were detained until the following morning.

Through the long night, their only clue as to how the bombardment was going was the flag pole bearing the stars and stripes of the American flag. As long as it waved, they knew America was winning.

With every flash of bursting bombs, they peered through the darkness and smoke-filled skies to see if the flag still waved. Dawn's first light revealed that America was victorious.

During the long vigil, Key wrote his thoughts -- the first verse of "The Star Spangled Banner" -- on the back of an envelope. Verses two and three were written as they sailed back to shore. He revised the poem later that evening in his hotel room. The poem was printed and distributed the next day on handbills. Later a popular tune was added, and in 1931, Congress declared it as the official U.S. National Anthem.

"Learning words throughout the song like 'ramparts' gives the students a better understanding of what was really going on," Hassell explained. "Lots of adults don't even understand some of the words. I know I didn't."

According to Hassell, the project allowed students the opportunity to learn proper flag etiquette, touched on the making of the flag by Betsy Ross, taught them how to cut stars with one cut, and emphasized respect for the flag.

"I think it really got them thinking about some things," Hassell said. "It seems like respect for our flag and patriotism has been lost. New generations are losing their identity as Americans. Its up to us to give them that awareness and appreciation of where we come from -- our heritage and what it's all about."

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