About the Holiday
The first American Eagle Day was proclaimed by President Bill Clinton and Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist in 1995 to commemorate and bring awareness to this most enduring American symbol. Chosen as the United States’ National Emblem by our Founding Fathers on June 20, 1782, the Bald Eagle represents the best of America: freedom, courage, strength, spirit, and excellence. Once threatened with extinction—only 400 nesting pairs existed in the early 1960s—the American Eagle has made a comeback, with 15,000 nesting pairs living in the lower 48 states. Besides celebrating what the American Eagle symbolizes, today’s holiday is used to raise awareness of conservation efforts for this most majestic bird.
Is a Bald Eagle Really Bald?
Written by Martha E. H. Rustad | Illustrated by Holli Conger
“Our class is having a visitor today,” Ms. Patel tells her class. “Guess who it is,” she urges after giving the kids a hint that the visitor eats fish. Anabelle thinks it might be her dad, but Ms. Patel adds that the visitor has a sharp beak and feathers. Joshua guesses that it’s a duck. The kids are getting closer, and with one more hint—Ms. Patel holds up a one-dollar bill—Rose correctly shouts, “‘a bald eagle!’”
Natalie wants to know why there’s a bald eagle on the dollar, and Ms. Patel tells her that the eagle is a symbol of our country. When John asks what a symbol is, she compares the eagle to the school’s bear mascot and goes on to say that the eagle can also be found on the Great Seal. Luke is momentarily excited about the prospect of a seal also visiting the class, but Ms. Patel shows the class that the Great Seal is actually an image. This image demonstrates that something is officially American and appears on stamps, government buildings, important papers, and even the buttons on military uniforms.
The class takes a closer look at the Great Seal, with its eagle in the center. In one foot the eagle is holding a plant, says Karen. Right, Ms. Patel says. “‘It’s an olive branch. It stands for peace.’” Noah notices that in the other foot the eagle carries arrows. The arrows represent strength, Ms. Patel explains. The banner in the eagle’s beak reads E. Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for “one from many” and describes how the single country of America is made of many states. The thirteen stars above the eagle’s head reminds us of the 13 original colonies and states.
Dr. Kelly from the raptor center soon arrives with a bald eagle named Sam. Dr. Kelly puts on a protective glove and carefully takes Sam out of his carrier. Sam is huge! Kyra exclaims, and Jackson wants to know why he’s called “bald.” Dr. Kelly explains that the word bald actually comes from piebald, which means “‘having white marks.’” The class learns many facts about bald eagles, including that they have keen eyesight, can see their prey from high overhead, and can swallow a meal in mid-air.
Then the class talks about how the bald eagle became America’s mascot. Lily raises her hand and suggests it’s because eagles fly free and Americans are free. “‘Good answer,’” Ms. Patel says. She adds that bald eagles are native to North America, and shows the class a map of their summer and winter habitats.
All too soon class is over and it’s time for lunch. “Fish is on today’s menu,” Ms. Patel tells the kids, and they feel just like bald eagles. The children say “thank you” and “goodbye” to Dr. Kelly and Sam, and after lunch they draw their own mascots. You can do that too with the activity at the back of the book!
Scattered throughout the pages, sidebars expand on the facts delivered in the story. Readers learn that the Great Seal has been used since 1782, what raptors and raptor centers are, the weight and wingspan of an adult bald eagle, incredible statistics on eagle’s nests, and about conservation efforts to protect bald eagles.
A Draw-Your-Own Mascot activity follows the text along with a glossary and resources for further study, including free downloadable educational resources.
In her Our American Symbols books Martha E. H. Rustad does a wonderful job of explaining the importance of America’s emblems to children. Through classroom discussions between a teacher and her students, Is a Bald Eagle Really Bald? answers readers’ questions about how and why the bald eagle became a United States symbol. The natural give-and-take will resonated with kids, and Rustad’s clear and kid-friendly definitions of concepts will make an impact. The inclusion of a representative from a raptor center will also feel familiar to children experienced with these types of classroom visitors as well as similar field trips. Sidebars provide more scientific and historical facts.
Holli Conger’s bright, bold illustrations distinctly depict the concepts in the text through large, colorful, and easily understood images. A bulletin board holds pictures of a bald eagle and the American flag, while the teacher holds up a school mascot t-shirt to help relay the idea of a symbol; the Great Seal is shown with well-defined details as the teacher uses a pointer to indicate its various parts; and pages portraying the visit by the raptor center representative give kids a good idea of the size and grandeur of the bald eagle. The children portrayed in the classroom are enthusiastic and welcoming, and readers will feel right at home in their midst.
Ages 5 – 9
Millbrook Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1467744669
American Eagle Day Activity
American Eagle and Flag Coloring Page
The majestic American Bald Eagle is a perfect symbol to represent the courage, freedom, and spirit of the USA. Here’s a printable American Eagle and Flag Coloring Page for you to enjoy!