It’s already May - time to start wrapping up the school year, right?!! As you’re planning all of your end of year celebrations and finishing touches, don’t forget that there’s an important holiday to observe with your students. Falling on the last Monday of May each year (in the U.S.), Memorial Day is set aside to honor the fallen men and women of our military. As a national holiday, you likely won’t be in school that day, but you can still plan activities for your students in the week leading up to it.
Here are a few of my favorite activities for observing Memorial Day in my classroom…
I love the book The Wall by Eve Bunting and it’s PERFECT for helping your students understand the significance of Memorial Day. This book tells the story of a boy who visits the Vietnam War Memorial with his dad to find the name of his grandfather. During their visit, the young boy meets an injured veteran, sees an elderly couple mourning the loss of a loved one, and a class on a field trip learning about the wall.
Although the boy never met his grandfather, he is able to feel his name on the wall and make a pencil rubbing of it, connecting in his own way with a man he never knew. Before departing, the boy leaves a picture of himself. He wishes his grandpa was alive, but is proud that his name is on the wall.
This book is wonderful for any age group. The gentle way Eve Bunting presents a sensitive topic is lovely.
You can also take your students on a virtual tour of the memorial. Check it out here: Vietnam War Memorial Virtual Tour (Note: I had to turn my ad blocker off for the tour to load)
MILITARY CARE PACKAGE
For me, one of the best ways to honor our fallen veterans is to also honor those currently serving. Sometimes it’s difficult for younger children to understand the significance of Memorial Day because they haven’t yet lost a loved one. By connecting with overseas service members and doing something helpful for them, your students will have a better appreciation of the holiday. A fantastic way to do this is by creating care packages for the military!
The U.S. Postal Services offers a FREE Military Care Kit that includes all the boxes, tape, customs form, and labels you need to send several care packages You can get ideas of what to put in the boxes at the Veterans United website. Before sealing them up, have your class add their own drawings and notes. They can even decorate the inside of the box!
I’m sure there are plenty of organizations that coordinate care packages, but I particularly like ones that let you fulfill requests submitted directly by service members. One to check out is anysoldier.com. You can actually click on the menu at the top to switch between anysoldier, anymarine, anysailor, anyairman, or anycoastguardsman if you want to choose which branch to send to. You can view individual requests by clicking on “Where to Send” on the menu at the top of the page and then “Search”.
Your students will love being able to personally help someone in the military and it will really make Memorial Day meaningful for them!