November 11 is a day where we, as Canadians, take a moment to reflect upon the sacrifices that countless men and women made during the World Wars to guarantee the freedom we have as citizens of this wonderful country. It is also a time to honour those who continue to work on behalf of our country to help people overseas rebuild their lives after civil unrest and terrorism. Canadians call this day Remembrance Day.
When I was a university student in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, I spent my first summer working at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Myself, along with approximately 50 other students, were hired to update the virtual database of living war veterans and to ensure that their digital files matched their yellowing and aging paper files. While the work itself was tedious at times, the background stories of the men and women that I had to look into were quite fascinating. Each time I opened a new file, I was transported back in time… sometimes as early as the turn of the 20th century. I read about soldiers, their roles within the First, Second, and Desert Storm wars, their triumphs, and, unfortunately, their injuries. In many cases, I read about deaths and loved ones left behind. I learned about War Brides that moved to Canada after meeting their Canadian husbands overseas; some of which barely spoke English, let alone French. It was then that I came to the shocking realization that many men, women and children continued to live with the affects of the aftermath of war and peacekeeping duties.
Several years after my work experience at Veteran’s Affairs Canada, I had a friend enlist in the armed forces. He was stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan during the American hunt for Osama Bin Laden. While he enlisted and served as a Canadian Peacekeeper, never a day went by that I didn’t think about him or worry about his safety. This was the first time that the reality of war became personal for me. The face of war was not a stranger in army fatigues but a person I knew, a person I did not want to see hurt, and most importantly, a person I called a friend. After a 3 month duty of service in Afghanistan, in which he helped the people of Kandahar rebuild their community following the war in Afghanistan, my friend came home safely and soundly to his family. And I couldn’t be prouder of him.
I often wonder as a parent and teacher if I am doing enough to express the gratitude I have for those who have fought in war and for those who continue to serve our country. Talking about war and the sacrifices that many women and men have made, and continue to make, is a very delicate subject – especially when working with younger children. I have also witnessed a shifting of public perception with many thinking that the discussion of war and the sacrifices made are more of a glorification of war instead of an act of respect for those who served to keep our country free. Yes, this is unfortunately true.
So, what do I do in my classroom to observe Remembrance Day? I show music videos from Canadian performers that pay tribute to our Armed Forces and I impress upon the children how important it is to be proud Canadian citizens. My goal is not to glorify war but to show them how the history of combat has provided us with the freedom we have today – and why we need to be thankful for those who sacrificed their lives for our wonderful freedom and country.
After searching the internet for kid-friendly activities and not finding something specific to my needs, I decided to develop my own teaching materials. This unit is specifically made for Canadian elementary classrooms, and includes links to music videos, complete lyrics for the songs for guided reading and reading practice, discussion questions, poems, and even our national anthem in both English and French for students to practice. It takes a serious, yet gentle approach to discussing the history of the World War, while placing emphasis on being proud Canadian citizens.
Here is a little peek at what’s inside the unit…
You can find this unit exclusively at my TpT store.
Have a great day!