I was a Montessori Upper Elementary student the day he decided to share with me this precious memory. He told me how he stormed the beach at Normandy and how scared and sick the men were in the crossing of the Channel. He told me of frost bitten feet and Christmas Eve peace. What moved me the most was when he took out the photograph of my infant mother. This man, who was a hero to me simply because he was my grandfather, broke into heart-wrenching sobs and was unable to finish his story.
The Importance of Veteran’s (Remembrance) Day: November 11Even now, at forty years old, I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. A man so brave and steadfast, held things in his head and heart that the rest of us simply could not fathom. As I grew older, I realized that the memories of the War haunted him for the rest of his life. This mountain of a man sought the dark of his room on the Fourth of July to escape the sounds of fireworks as they reminded him too much of the sounds of battle shells and artillery. When I was a teenager, he told me the story of how he helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp and of the terrors he witnessed there. I was proud of my grandfather and was amazed at his stories. History was no longer relegated to textbooks; it was sitting on my back porch on a summer day.
Today, I am saddened when I see and hear television and radio commercials touting Veteran’s Day as a three-day shopping extravaganza. What makes it even worse is realizing that many people do not know why they have a three-day weekend or why schools and banks are closed on November 11th.
When I lived in New Jersey, I lived across the street from a VFW (Veteran’s of Foreign Wars) Hall. Every Veteran’s Day there was a Remembrance Ceremony complete with a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” by a lone bugler. It was a moving ceremony, with the veterans dressed in their military uniforms. On the Fourth of July, they dressed up again, this time to take their honorary place in a float in the town parade. I was proud of these men and women who gave of themselves to help ensure our freedom. And I was saddened by the thoughts of those who did, but did not return.
As a Montessori teacher, I feel it is my duty to help children honor and remember our veterans. We have all been touched by the current War in Iraq. And while we hear daily about what is happening over there, it seems these days that my students are talking more about gas prices than they are about what is happening in the Middle East. My school held a moment of silence for the victims of 9-1-1 this year. When it was over, I had a sixth grade boy ask me what 9-1-1 was and why we had done that. I suppose, with all of our media coverage and exposure we have allowed ourselves to become numb. It’s been such a constant part of the lives of this generation that we need to teach them not only to be aware of what is happening in the world around them, but to give proper homage where it is due.
Remembering our veterans can take many forms. Being an active participant in remembrance is a way of thanking those who have served their country. I read an interesting article titled “50 Ways to Remember” on the Canadian Veteran’s Affairs website. It listed several ways to remember those who served both the United States and Canada. I've gone through and modified some of their suggestions for the Montessori classroom.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- Older children might like to plan, organize or participate in a 1920s, 1940s, or 1950s dance or "Victory Ball." They can research the clothing, hairstyles, music, food and decorations of the time and include those themes in the event.
- Research the story of a family member, friend or neighbor who served in the armed forces in wartime or peacetime. Tell that person's story to your Montessori class. Describe how his or her life was affected by their service and talk about the challenges they faced after the war.
- Invite a Veteran or a member of the armed forces to speak in your Montessori classroom.
- Research how Canadians and Americans at home supported the war effort overseas. Discuss what you have learned as a class.
- Plant tulips, a tree or an entire memorial garden in memory of local citizens who died during their military service and/or Veterans from your community who have passed on.
- Make "Izzy" dolls and send them to Canada's service men and women to give to children who live in troubled areas of the world. To learn how to make "Izzy" dolls, visit the Mark Isfeld Memorial website.
Find curriculum activities that examine the impact of world wars and other events on modern society. Order your copy of NAMC’s US or Canadian History manual today!
Also read: Celebrating Veteran's Day with Montessori Activities
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, November 3, 2008.