My standard Veteran’s Day lesson consists of setting our own white table. As we turn the pages of Margot Theis Raven’s tribute to America’s soldiers, students approach the table and add each symbolic item until we have created our own classroom memorial. I have supplemented this activity with other mindless activities that are quite frankly dishonorable to the sacrifices our soldiers make.
While these activities sufficed for my beginning years as a teacher, I can’t justify calling myself a teacher when I expose my students to superficial “Veteran’s Day” activities. On the hunt for meaningful and authentic resources, I came across the Veteran’s HIstory Project courtesy of the Library of Congress. Here, students can search a vast collection of letters, sound bits, images, and interview transcripts contributed by soldiers, their family members, historians, etc. Visitors can limit their search by war era and/or military branch.
I plan to incorporate this resource by allowing students to pick a military branch and war era out of a hat. Students will search five selections and pare down their selection to one resource that they will share via a Stir the Class* model. Students will gather three quotes or important information to share. They will write them down on a paper. Next, students will mingle around the class, sharing their selections and recording other students’ responses until they have accumulated 20 ideas.
When my district opted to have students in school on Veteran’s Day, they intended for meaningful lessons to be incorporated into the social studies classroom. I hope this learning experience will serve as a valuable and honorable tribute for America’s soldiers.