Teaching the US States? How about a little PBL-spiration?

Teaching the US States? How about a little PBL-spiration?

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted a PBL idea and I ran across a series of .gifs today that were US state flags, reimagined and redesigned. Well! How cool! I figured if there were several .gifs, there had to be a bigger post all about these 3-colored flags out there and sure enough… (seriously, check these crazy awesome flags out! Kansas’ flag is COOL! But it’s mostly RED! What a shock!)

Could These Redesigned State Flags Bring America Together?

Reading into the post, the designer says…

“I was immediately bothered by how discordant they are as a group.” he remembers, “And I wasn’t surprised to learn they break just about every rule of flag design.” So, amidst the backdrop of a fractious, fighting Congress, Mitchell decided to come up with a single visual language that could be used to redesign the whole lot, all in the name of making our Union a little more, um, united.

I see it. United. By color and simplicity: Each flag is red, white, and blue — all the same hexcode colors. And the symbols are now bold and easy to see. No more squinting to see the little bison on the Kansas flag or to be sure those are indeed bears on the Missouri flag.

I also see that the flags are, in this redesigned state (pun), a bit…boring. Sure they have symbols that are cool, but gosh! 


And then I thought this might make a great PBL unit for an elementary or middle school classroom studying states or a chunk of history in particular states. And what if we redesigned the flags of all (or certain) states to reflect a flag of who each state is today? I mean, after all, how old is the newest flag … I would ask the kids … and wait for an answer, even if they had to Google it. (Hello Hawaii!) So yeah, even the newest flag is ancient, right?!

So the kids would need to learn about why the original flag is designed how it is. Were there any flags before this current iteration? What did they look like? Why did they change them, do you think? Hmmm…

So then what’s that state like now and how would you represent them? Would we look at their state symbols? Or geographical features? Or manufacturing/agriculture growth? Maybe their historical figures or famous people. Maybe we’d take a gander the state quarters from a couple decades back. Maybe we’d even collaborate with a classroom or two in those states to get what they think…after all, the children are our future and maybe they’d like a say?

I’d also want to get the art and the math teachers involved. Maybe they could help us with the “proper” flag design, since the fella up in that wired post says that each state has it horribly wrong already.

Maybe we could also call in the music teacher or language arts teachers and find out about the state songs. What if we updated them to reflect a more modern feeling, taking us into the decades to come. I mean, even if we didn’t write new music (I’m imagining a portfolio of Bieber–flavored state songs) we could at least update the lyrics. Maybe not all the lyrics. Maybe just some. Or add a new verse. I don’t know. What would your kids say?

And of course there would have to be a parade or hall of flags, right? And what if we shared this virtually? And shared it with Kyle VanHemert, the author of the post. Or even Ed Mitchell, the flag designer at the Philadelphia-based product design firm Bresslergroup. I wonder how we could find Mr. Mitchell and maybe video conference with him? …I would wonder aloud to the kids.

Anyway, just thought I’d share a quick thought this time. I can’t tell you how many PBL units I see on a near-daily basis, just living life, waiting to be investigated. This one just got written down.

If you want to see more well-thought out PBL units with a bit more inspirational detail, check these out!

And if you do this with your kids, be sure to tag me on Twitter: @GingerLewman or hit me up on Facebook!


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Written by GingerLewman

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