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Symbolism and the Medal of Honor

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School Foundational, Art

One Class Session


Students will:

  • define symbolism and identify how it is used in the actual design of the three different Medals of Honor
  • research the changes in the Medals and their ribbons over time

For the Teacher:
After students have an understanding of the Medal of Honor and what it represents, teachers may incorporate this lesson into various areas of the curriculum.

Introductory Activity:
The teacher will review the introductory video “Medal of Honor: In Their Own Words” with the class. The teacher will lead a brief discussion of the key points of the video. If more time is available, the teacher may use Medal of Honor: The History, a 50-minute documentary film.

Whole Group Activity:
Students will research the design and creation of the Medal and how it has changed over time. Teachers will also help students explore the symbolism used in the creation of the Medal.

Small Group/Individual Activity:
Students will choose a Medal (Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard, Army, or Air Force) and re-create it using available media and supplies.

Whole Group Activity:
The students’ work will be displayed around the room. The students will complete a gallery walk during which they will view and critique all the work.

Concluding Activity:
Students will write a reflection (two paragraphs minimum) on their work. Students will also write a journal entry based on their review of the symbolism in the medals.

Artwork, critique, self-reflection


Medal of Honor: In Their Own Words” video, Medal of Honor: The History Documentary, art supplies

Extended Activity:
The students can create a medal of their own design to honor service members, other public servants, or fellow students. Students can present these medals in a ceremony at the school.