Veteran’s Day is observed on November 11 each year, the anniversary of the day World War I ended. Help your students to truly appreciate our veterans’ sacrifices by selecting one or more of the ideas listed here.
#1: Gallery Wall of Veteran Photos
On Veteran’s Day, ask your students to bring a photo of a veteran they know. It could be a parent, aunt, cousin, great-grandfather, or even a neighbor. Have students bring the following:
- An 8×10 copy of their veteran’s photo
- An index card with information that includes:
- Veteran’s name
- Student’s name & relationship to veteran
- Term of service
- Branch of service and rank
- Country for which the veteran served
- Any notable information about the service
Keep the photos posted in your halls for a few weeks–not only does this beautifully honor those who have served, but it also is perfect to renew the feelings of gratitude that we seek to magnify throughout the Thanksgiving season.
#2: Poppies & Poetry
Poppies are a classic, but not all your students may be aware of their significance. Choose a way to share “In Flanders Fields” with your students, whether you simply read the text and background, watch a video, or show a picture book. (Alternatively, share Cheryl Dyson’s poem for a piece suited for very young audiences). Then, ask students to find meaningful ways they can express their understanding and appreciation for this poem:
#3: Letters to Soldiers
Have students write letters expressing gratitude to a soldier. Mail these to soldiers at your closest military base or visit websites like Operation Gratitude. Students could also share their pieces created in the above Poppies & Poetry activity.
#4: Introduce the Veteran’s History Project
This project was started by Congress in 2000, and is sponsored by AARP. The goal is to “collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.” As a class, you could:
- Discuss the interview questions listed in the Field Kit, and practice interview skills in class.
- Complete the VHP preparations as a class:
- 15-minute Field Kit Companion Video
- Search the collections database
- Print forms
- Register for the VHP RSS feed (and add to your class blog if you have one!)
- Locate a veteran to interview (either a student’s family member or someone found in a local veterans service organization), then hold the interview in class if he or she can make it, or by phone.
- While volunteer student interviewers must be 10th graders or older, younger students can participate in interviewing family members. Additionally, donations are welcome, so your class could alternatively hold a fundraiser for the project!
#5: Favorite Videos
- History Channel’s “Bet You Didn’t Know” and videos on Veteran’s Day (they also have other wonderful videos like “Joe & Benji the Vet Dog”, photo galleries, and a fact sheet)
- Veteran’s Day 2014–Freedom Isn’t Free: footage of actual war scenes (appropriate for school) and historic photos
- Armed Forces Medley from the National Memorial Day Concert 2010: recognizes each branch of the United States Military
- Featured image (visible only on mobile layout with current version): Chris Wieland
- Robert Couse-Baker