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Memorial Day Shoebox Parade


Return to Remembering Those Who Gave Their Lives: Lessons for Memorial Day



  • Arts & Humanities:
    Language Arts
  • Arts & Humanities:
    Visual Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Mathematics:
  • Mathematics:
  • Social Studies:
    -U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Students create a timeline of U.S. conflict and a Shoebox Memorial Day Parade to commemorate soldiers who fought for freedom.


Students will

  • work in small groups or independently.
  • create a timeline of U.S. war and conflict.
  • make "shoebox floats" to represent and commemorate soldiers throughout history.


War, soldiers, servicemen, service women, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, parade, float, shoebox, timeline, conflict, Revolutionary War, American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Iraq, Desert Storm, diorama

Materials Needed

  • shoebox (one for each student or small group of students)
  • library and/or Internet resource materials
  • a timeline (teacher or student created)
  • art supplies for creating posters

Lesson Plan

Throughout history, the United States has found itself involved in wars on our own soil and around the globe. In total, the United States has taken part in more than 50 wars, conflicts, or incidents that have involved the sacrifice of American servicemen and women. Memorial Day is all about commemorating the lives of service personnel who gave up their lives in the name of freedom. In this lesson, students memorialize those lives by creating a timeline of the history of U.S. conflict. A culminating project challenges students to create a shoebox float to commemorate one conflict and the Americans who served in it.

Lesson Resource:
American's Wars: U.S. Causalities and Veterans at

You might approach this lesson in a variety of ways. Following are a couple of possible scenarios for the lesson:

  • Arrange students into pairs or groups of three or four; give each group a time period or a war/conflict to research.
  • Another alternative would be to assign each student a war to research. If you teach older students, researching some of the smaller conflicts will be an excellent and challenging lesson; if you teach elementary or middle level students, you might limit research to the 24 conflicts (including Operation Iraqui Freedom) in which more than 100 lives were sacrificed.

Lesson Notes

Following are some general notes about the timeline lesson:

* Older students can create the timeline themselves; if you teach elementary-level students, you might want to create the timeline -- with dates already marked. You might even mark the names of the wars/conflicts students will research.

* Since the listing of U.S. conflicts contains more than 50 incidents, you might assign each older student one or two to research. If you teach younger students, you might limit the lesson/research to those conflicts in which significant numbers of lives were lost (for example, 100 or more service members sacrificed).

* Post the timeline at eye level; if that is not possible -- if the timeline must be posted at above-the-bulletin-board level -- students should write larger, so the timeline can be easily read.
Students use library and/or Internet resources to complete their research assignments. [See additional lesson notes in the sidebar.]

Poster Activities

  • Students might create posters to accompany the war(s) they research. The posters can appear above or below the timeline. Use strands of thick yarn to connect each poster to the spot on the timeline that indicates when the war began. The posters might show the name of the war, its dates, the causes of the war, and the number of casualties.
  • Students' posters might include artwork they create or illustrations printed from the Internet.
  • The timeline might also illustrate the evolution of the U.S. flag. Students might add a flag to their poster to show how the flag looked during the conflict. (Resource: The Flags of the United States of America)
  • The posters might include names and/or images of some of the key players in the wars.

Culminating Project: The Shoebox Parade
After students have completed their research about the war/conflict they were assigned, each student or team of students will be responsible for creating a shoebox float to commemorate that war for a classroom Memorial Day Shoebox Parade. They will use a shoebox, turned upside down, as their float surface. They will decorate with soldiers (perhaps made out of paper with cardboard "stands" to support them) dressed appropriately for battle. The floats might also include other items that are indicative of the war -- for example, transportation the soldiers might have used, tools of war, posters, indicators of the place where the war took place or the time period in which it happened, and so on. The floats are limited only by students' imaginations.


Students present their posters and shoebox floats to their classmates; they explain how their posters and floats reflect the battle and the time period. If students work in pairs, one member of each pair can present the poster and its information and the other can present the float and their rationale for it. Students might grade each of their group members on effort; or students' classmates might grade their presentations.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

Find more Memorial Day activity ideas in Education World's Memorial Day Archive.

Click to return to this week's Lesson Planning article, Remembering Those Who Gave Their Lives: Lessons for Memorial Day.


Last updated 05/23/2017