Students at Muskogee, Oklahoma’s Early Childhood Center may not fully understand the gravity of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but they’re getting a sense of the American spirit that brought the country together in the wake of that horrific day.

“This is great to see 4-year-old children honor and remember what this day means for our country,” District Attorney Orvil Loge told the Muskogee Phoenix as children paraded down Broadway waiving tiny American flags.

The youngsters spent the 17th anniversary of 9/11 participating in an annual march the school has held since 2002 to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, as well as local first responders who keep the community safe.

“Ever since then, it’s just gotten bigger and better,” ECC Principal Malinda Lindsey said.

Lindsay told the news site the intent is to focus on character virtues like cooperation, respect and citizenship, while getting kids out in the community to show their patriotism.

This year’s march kicked off with an assembly to give thanks to veterans and first responders, followed by a walk to the Muskeogee Public Schools Board of Education Service and Technology Center, where administrators dolled out cookies and congratulations.

A large fire truck, police cruisers and an ambulance escorted the children, who wore crafted paper hats, American flags and chanted “USA, USA!”

“It’s so fun to just watch them walk down the street,” Muskogee Public Schools Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall told the Phoenix. “They seem to be really excited about it.”

The superintendent said the march is part of the district’s effort to promote citizenship “and being part of our country.”

“And I think this starts early,” he said. “Doing this parade is one of those moments you can do that with kids and teach them it’s really important to be a good citizen and celebrate being an American.”

Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture point out that the way school teach citizenship matters as much as the content of citizenship because character and citizenship are formed through shared social practices.

IASC founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Death of Character”:

Character is not … solitary, autonomous, unconstrained; merely a set of traits within a unique and unencumbered personality. Character is very much social in its constitution. It is inseparable from the culture within which it is found and formed.

The Association for Citizenship Teaching offers numerous resources for educators and others to help students develop the knowledge, skills and understanding to participate as active and responsible citizens.

Those resources include a Citizenship Curriculum, as well as projects, journals, awards and other advice.

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