This week’s #54U brings five resources educators can use to plan Remembrance Day Activities with their students K to 12. It includes reading, watching a video, an arts activity, a lesson on the aftermath of war, and a guide to planning a commemorative service.
Facts about Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919 throughout the British Commonwealth. It was originally called “Armistice Day” to commemorate armistice agreement that ended the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.—on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a moment of silence to honour and remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict and peace. We remember the more than 2,300,000 Canadians who have served throughout our nation’s history and the more than 118,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice.
A general caution about any of these activities – it is likely that you will have students in your class who have personally lived, or come from families that have lived, in places experiencing war or the aftermath of war. Think carefully as you chose activities and be sensitive to their responses.
1. Preschool Reading and Discussion: What is Peace?
Beautiful, whimsical artwork is combined with reflective questions about peace: Is peace strong? Is peace gentle? Is it innocent? Is it wise? This engaging picture book provides a perfect foundation to discuss peace with children, exploring what it means to them, what it looks like in their everyday life, and what it means to those around the world.
2. Primary Students Video or Book with Discussion: A Bear in War
This true story is more than one family’s testament to a brave soldier. It is a gentle introduction to war, to Remembrance Day, and to the honor of those who have served their countries. Lawrence carried his daughter’s bear with him through his time overseas. When he was killed at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, soldiers retrieving the body found the bear and returned it to his family.
Teddy now lives in the Canadian War Museum, where he is a touching reminder of the cost of war.
3. Middle School Integrated Arts Activity: “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
In this activity from Historica Canada, students create a persona for the Unknown Soldier, based on the poem “In Flanders Field” and a Heritage Minutes video about the author John McCrae. Then they write a letter home from the point of view of the Unknown Soldier, describing McCrae.
Working in groups of 3 to 6 students they then develop a performance that includes two art forms (music, poetry, dance, art, drama), and the poem in some way.
4. High School: “The Aftermath Project”
A photojournalistic exploration of how individuals and communities reckon with mass violence, its legacies and the challenges of rebuilding communities after conflict.
…I went to Bosnia to cover the aftermath of war – to try to capture the images that are the all too often forgotten companions of the vivid pictures of war itself. I came with the conviction that war is only half the story. I believed, and still believe, that what happens in the aftermath of war is as newsworthy, if not more so, than the destruction and horror of war. I went to Bosnia with a desire to document that incredibly difficult period when humans move out of war’s desperate struggle to survive, and begin another equally mighty struggle – that of learning to live again. In the four years I spent making the images that would ultimately become this book, I became convinced that we need post-conflict images to remind us of our humanity – to testify that war is not the final word on who we are as human beings, nor the final image of our spirit.Sara Terry, Founder The Aftermath Project
The Aftermath Project has many powerful lessons to choose from. In Bosnia’s Long Road to Peace, about the aftermath of the Bosnian War, students follow a viewing structure of describe, analyze, and interpret, as they closely examine and discuss five images of life in post-war Bosnia. The questions that come with the image guide are thought provoking, and can lead to many important discussions and further research.
I think this activity in particular calls for sensitivity towards students who have experienced war and it’s aftermath.
5. All Ages Guide to Planning a Commemorative Service
This comprehensive Guide to planning a commemorative ceremony for Remembrance Day prepared by Veterans Affairs can be easily adapted for K to 12 children, in schools, afterschool programs and youth organizations.
I would like to express my profound gratitude to the women and men who have served their countries around the world to uphold values of freedom and peace.
How do you mark Remembrance Day with your students? Share in the comments.