Students need to connect with Veterans. They need to know WHY they don't have school on Veterans Day.
I am the daughter of an Air Force Veteran. My dad served in Vietnam as an Air Force Mechanic. He loved to say he carried a wrench when the kiddos asked if he carried a gun. He loved telling stories about his time in the service, and I enjoyed listening to his stories. He was also very interested in helping Veterans, and was a Commander of the Bloomingdale VFW Post. Needless to say, I grew up very patriotic. I always wanted to do something to honor Veterans at school, but I wasn't sure where to start or what to do.
When my son was in second grade, his elementary school had a Veterans Day Assembly. Students were encouraged to invite their relatives that served in the military, and send in pictures that would be used in a slideshow. My son wanted my dad to be there, and since my dad was retired, he gladly accepted. I wanted to know more about their assembly, so I used a personal day to go with my dad. The Veterans Day Assembly at was awesome! The choir sang patriotic songs, each child had a flag to wave, there were guest speakers that inspired the students (and adults), and they created a slideshow with all of the pictures that were sent in by students and staff at the school. However, the best part was when my son's teacher asked my dad to come talk to the class following the assembly. The students had prepared some questions and my dad talked with them. I knew THIS was what I wanted to bring to my school.
|The First Veterans Day Assembly|
I started planning for the following year. I began by writing a Valley View Educational Enrichment Foundation Grant called "Wave Your Flag High for Veterans Day" to purchase the flags, and pave the way for our first assembly. I really loved the idea of each child having a flag to wave during the assembly. I also wanted them to leave the assembly with a flag to remember what they learned and who they met. My Principals loved the idea, and I lead the committee that would do the planning for the event, and every event following. In the fall of 2012 I met with my committee and we planned the first Veterans Day Assembly at Tibbott School. The format followed what I had seen at my son's school. Teachers/Librarians are well known professional borrowers, why start from scratch if you know of a tried and true method. Students and staff invited their family members who were Veterans to be guests of honor at the assembly. The choir sang, the Veterans were introduced, I told my dad's story of being a Veteran and why the flag was so important to him, and we had a slideshow of pictures sent in by students and staff. Then the Veterans were invited to classrooms for about 15 minutes to talk with students in an informal setting.
For the most part all classroom Veteran visits are voluntary. All Veterans visit the classroom of the child or teacher that invited them as a guest of honor, so it is possible that a teacher had not signed up for a visit might end up with one. Nobody has ever complained about a surprise visit. I have always received positive feedback about the visits, even if they aren’t planned. I learned that it is VERY important to have the teacher brainstorm questions with the class ahead of time to to weed out any inappropriate questions prior to the Veteran entering the classroom.
Each year we have a different theme that is decided by the committee, and we add a little more to the experience. Themes we have used include: how to fold the flag and the meaning behind each fold, the history and evolution of the flag, the history and meaning of poppies, and military dogs. One of my favorite additions to the assemblies has been a readers theater performed by one of the 5th grade classes. Each year the teacher and I discuss the new theme and we work with the students to create a script. In addition to Veterans visiting classrooms following the school wide assembly, we have Skyped with a family member of one of our teachers who was actively serving in the Marines. One of the members of the Bloomingdale VFW, my dad’s former post, is highly active with a group called Military Outreach USA which helps Veterans leaving homelessness. For the past two years we have incorporated a collection for this group around Veterans Day. Over the past two years we have collected enough to provide 7 beds along with other various items they need when leaving homelessness.
I use SmileBox to create the slideshow each year. This link will take you to the slideshow I played during our 2016 Veterans Day Assembly.
I take many pictures during the Assembly and of the Veterans in the classrooms. This link is for the Animoto I created with my pictures from 2016. https://animoto.com/play/Y4rHFWBe1PxvSUmSxrkD6g
This is a link to Military Outreach USA, maybe you will consider a donation to this worthy cause. http://militaryoutreachusa.org
My dad passed away in the spring of 2015. He would be proud that I have continued the tradition of connecting students with Veterans.