|| Note: These activities were designed to celebrate Veterans Day in the
U.S.; however, most of them could be used to recognize veterans in any
Growing Up At War
Ask each student to locate a family member or friend who grew up during World War II. As a homework project, have students interview the person whom they selected. Have them focus the interviews on what it was like to be a child growing up during the war period. How did the war impact American communities? What items were in short supply? What kinds of things did children do to help with the war effort? What effect did the war have on the person's family life? As a child, how did the person react to the news that the war was over?
If possible, ask students to record their interviews on cassette tapes. Over a period of time, share a portion of the interview selected by the student conducting the interview with the class.
Ask each student to write about one memorable war-related incident in the life of the person he or she interviewed. A related art activity would be to illustrate the story.
Collect each student's story and art work. Compile this into a book, and make a copy for each student. (If funds permit, consider making a copy for each person interviewed as well.)
After all interviews are completed, discuss the impact war can have on children--even if the war is being fought on another continent. Ask students to list ways that a war could change their lives.
In the Line of Duty
Invite a former member of the armed services to speak class.
Before the guest arrives, divide the class into small groups. Assign each group a topic--training, living quarters, travel, food, rank, uniforms, area of service, etc. Ask each group to formulate a list of questions related to its topic for the guest.
Ask the guest to share with the students why he or she chose to join the armed forces and relate a few stories of life in the military. After the guest has spoken, give each group time to ask its questions.
After the guest leaves, have students write and mail thank-you notes.
As a follow-up activity, consider having students write about their impressions of military life in a response journal.
Letter to a Soldier
Ask students to write a letter that could be read by any U.S. soldier. Encourage them to use their best grammar and spelling. Remind students to be positive and to voice their appreciation for America's armed forces.
Have students exchange letters. Each student should ask at least three other people to review the spelling and grammar in his or her letter. Ask students to make any needed corrections to their letters.
If students have Internet access, let them take turns visiting Write a Letter to a Soldier. There they may post their letters online for soldiers to read.
Consider mailing each letter along with a small care packages to a soldier overseas. (Packages may be mailed from the U.S. to U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world at domestic postage rates.) Suggested items for care packages include shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, nail clippers, stationary, envelopes, postage stamps, microwave popcorn, hard candy, gummi candy, chewing gum, hot chocolate mix, pre-sweetened Kool-aid, cards games, travel games and hand-held video games.
Living History Interviews
Study World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the Gulf War in detail.
After students have studied the war, ask each student to make a list of five questions they would like to ask someone who had actually been in the war.
Divide students into small groups. Within each group, ask students to compare their questions. Using questions from each group member, the group should formulate a group list of 8-10 questions that they would like to ask a veteran.
Invite a veteran of the war studied to class and give students an opportunity to interview him or her.
Thank You Veterans!
Obtain a list of veterans' names from a nearby veterans home or VA hospital. After discussing the sacrifices veterans have made, ask each student to write a thank-you note to one or more veterans. As a class, take a field trip to the home or hospital and deliver the cards. Plan enough time so that students can talk to veterans and listen to some of their stories.
What Freedom Means to Me...
Ask students to look the word "freedom" up in a dictionary. Call on students to read the definitions of the word out of various dictionaries. Discuss whether the dictionary can fully capture the meaning of freedom. Why or why not?
Look the word "freedom"up in a thesaurus. What words are given as synonyms of "freedom"? How are they alike? How are they different?
Encourage students to give examples of freedom.
Discuss how people might interpret freedom differently. How might a successful business person interpret freedom? How might a prisoner serving a life sentence interpret freedom? How might a child in a war-torn country interpret freedom? How might a soldier interpret freedom? How might a poor person interpret freedom? How might an recent immigrant interpret freedom?
Ask students to write an essay telling what freedom means to them.