For many students, Memorial Day merely marks the beginning of summer fun. This year, introduce them to the true meaning of the holiday, and provide them with a glimpse into the lives of the men and women it honors. Included: An Internet Treasure Hunt plus Web-based activities for learning about and celebrating Memorial Day!
To help your students celebrate Memorial Day with a deeper understanding of its history and importance, you might begin by sharing these lines, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, about soldiers who died in battle:
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
Invite students to discuss the meaning of the poem and why it is important to remember the men and women who have died fighting for our country. After talking about that, you might then introduce the Memorial Day Internet Treasure Hunt that follows.
Teachers of younger students can easily use the Web sites and adapt the questions that follow.
The class activities that accompany this hunt can be adapted for use with students of all ages. Some make excellent activities for independent or small group exploration; others will make valuable whole-class activities.
Challenge students to use the Web resources listed below to learn more about the history of Memorial Day.
Click here for an Answer Key to the Treasure Hunt questions.
When and why do we celebrate Memorial Day?
By what name was Memorial Day known when the first Memorial Day Order (General Order No. 11) was issued?
When the U.S. flag is properly folded, what shape it it?
In which war was the greatest number of American soldiers killed? _______________________________________________
On what date did Sergeant Weldon McCoy Barr record in his diary the signing of the armistice that ended WWI?
About how many U.S. women veterans are there?
Who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.?
According to St. Augustine, what is the purpose of all war?
Challenge students to use the Web or library resources to match each of the songs below with the 20th-century conflict that it is associated with:
"White Cliffs of Dover"
"Tie a Yellow Ribbon"
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
Answers: "White Cliffs of Dover" (WWII); "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" (Desert Storm); "Over There" (WWI); "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (Vietnam).
Have students read the diary of Weldon McCoy Barr and the words of other WWI soldiers, such as Harold Speakman, Charles L. Johnston, or the Spruce Soldiers. Then ask students to imagine they are soldiers far from home and to write letters describing their thoughts about serving their country.
Students can use the resources found at the Women Veterans Web page to create a graph showing the number of U.S. women who served during each conflict.
Have students read General John A. Logan's Memorial Day Order (establishing the very first Decoration Day celebration) and write an essay telling what Memorial Day means to them.
Invite students to take part in a role play about a controversial Vietnam mural.
Students can study the Powers of Persuasion -- Poster Art from World War II to learn how propaganda was used to promote patriotism during WWII. Then they can create posters promoting peace.
Ask each student to choose one of the women mentioned in the resources on the Women Veterans site, research her life, and write a biography about her.
Have students complete the sentence Patriotism is ____. Combine their responses in a class book with the same title.
Arrange for students to interview veterans to learn about more recent wartime experiences. Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs for help in locating veterans.
Display a large world map, and ask students to point out the places where Americans have fought and died. (This information is available on the Americans Killed in Action Web page and many others.)
Find out what Memorial Day events are scheduled in your area, and share with your class what you will do to celebrate the day.
Invite students to explore Vietnam Veterans Memorials Around the World and design a Vietnam memorial for your city or town.
Memorial Day Web Sites
This site provides links to a number of sites related to Memorial Day. Themes of the sites include war, peace, memorials, literature, and quotes.
Memorial Day Resource Guide
Find many, varied links here with information relevant to Memorial Day.
Article by Linda Starr
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