Today we started one of my favorite themes of the year… Veterans Day. I LOVE teaching students about this holiday. Sometimes people think it sounds strange when I say this is one of my favorite things to teach young students about but it is true!
I always start teaching about Veterans Day the day after Halloween. You know that day, right? The day when all the kids come in totally exhausted but on a complete sugar high because they ate a pound of candy for breakfast? It also tends to be the day that there is candy everywhere! It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your students not to bring candy to school… there will be candy in every lunchbox, every backpack, and every pocket. Luckily, this provides the perfect teaching opportunity to begin my new unit!
As the students spend the day sneaking, holding, stuffing their face with enjoying their candy, I begin explaining to the students that there are some people who don’t have any candy at all. Naturally, they are horrified. I begin to explain that all over the world there are people protecting us, helping people and keeping our country safe… and most of them don’t even have any candy! We look at photos of deployed soldiers and talk about how there are no Targets or Walmarts in the deserts where many of these “heroes” are stationed. The “candy tie in” works for 2 reasons. First, the kids get it. If you want to invoke true empathy from a five-year-old put it in terms of candy- ha! Secondly, it gives the kids the power to DO something. I guide them toward the idea that they could share their candy with the deployed soldiers… and we officially begin our own little “Veterans Day Candy Drive”. It starts slow. The next day someone brings in a single tootsie roll (OR I catch someone with candy they aren’t supposed to have and “assume” they brought it to donate- when I ask they always agree that’s why they had the candy stuffed into their pockets- ha!) I fuss over their kindness and put the candy into a large, flat rate postage box. Little by little, the kids start bringing in candy. First they bring a piece or two… within the week they are all bringing in huge handfuls or bags of candy to donate!
Here is what I really love about this… the kids do it. There parents don’t have to buy a thing. (Although the parents often do send in magazines, playing cards, big bags of candy etc. but that is always in addition to what the kids do on their own.) It is truly their decision to make their own donation… and they are SO, SO proud of themselves! It is precious. I really think it is so meaningful to them… I just love it!
So, in addition to our candy-drive, we began our theme with some general information. This year I created these Informational Q&A posters. They are already a huge hit and have helped to spark student interest and begin our conversations.
We have been graphing the results. The graph is becoming quite impressive! It always gets lots of attention from other classes at our school. This is the fourth year that I have been doing this and there are nine other classrooms that have joined in and graph their own “heroes” in November!
You can find all of my Veterans Day resources HERE. Enjoy!
If you are interested in starting your own “candy drive” you can find the information to join Operation Gratitude HERE or Soldiers’ Angels HERE. Over the years I have also send our donations to the deployed family member of one of my students.
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