The true beginnings of Memorial Day are difficult to trace. Many small towns were doing their own unique observation before officially declared by General John Logan on May 5, 1868. The day was first observed on May 30, 1868 by the laying of flowers on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1873, New York officially recognized Memorial Day and by 1890, all of the northern states had followed suit. The southern states honored their dead on separate days until after WWI. At that time the holiday changed from a day to honor those who died in the Civil War to a day to honor all Americans who died in any war. Now Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. In 1915, Moina Michael began the tradition of wearing red poppies to honor those who died. The VFW still continues this effort. In 1971, Congress passed a bill establishing the last Monday in May as a federal holiday, therefore creating a three-day weekend. Read on for a selection of activities and reading material suitable for studying Memorial Day in your Montessori classroom.
US Memorial Day Activities and Reading for the Montessori ClassroomToday, Memorial Day is observed by visiting cemeteries and placing flags on graves, visiting memorials, flying the United States flag, flying a POW/MIA flag, participating in the National Moment of Remembrance (at 3:00 p.m.), and providing aid for family members left behind by soldiers.
- Language: Study Memorial Day poems and speeches (http://www.usmemorialday.org/) and have students create their own.
- History: Discuss the various wars that the United States has been involved in and how the causes and effects varied from war to war. Create a timeline. Discuss alternatives to war and how times of war and times of peace differ in United States history.
- Art: Discuss the significance of the red, white and blue in the American flag. Students can explore what new colors and shades they can create from these colors. Finally, students can complete a piece of art (abstract, pop art, etc.) entirely out of red, white and blue.
- Science: Explore the cycle of life and how nature can benefit from death.
- Community Involvement & Service: Invite a veteran from the community to come to your Montessori classroom to share their experiences. Plan and complete a service project as a class at a center for veterans.
- Memorial Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays), by Jacqueline S. Cotton
- Memorial Day (Our Country's Holidays), by Sheri Dean
- Memorial Day Surprise, by Theresa Golding and Alexandra Artigas
- Memorial Day (Holidays, Festivals, & Celebrations), by Trudi Strain Trueit and Ronnie Rooney
- Memorial Day (True Books Series), by Christin Ditchfield
- Memorial Day (First Step Nonfiction), by Robin Nelson
- Let's Get Ready for Memorial Day, by Lloyd G. Douglas
- The Wall, by Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler
- Veterans Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays), by Jacqueline S. Cotton
- What Freedom Means to Me: A Flag Day Story, by Heather French Henry
Other NAMC Memorial Day blogs:
- Memorial Day Activities - Peace Education in the Montessori Classroom
- Montessori Curriculum Activity Ideas for Memorial Day
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, May 19, 2009.