Memorial Day Remembrance

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Our school wide Memorial Day remembrance some years ago with General Zukauskas and Cadet Crampton was stirring and moving, to say the least.  I think holding the American flag and singing patriotic songs, particularly The Star Spangled Banner”, were quite meaningful to us.  Children worked hard to learn the words to the song and to understand our flag.  Since the rain kept us indoors for the ceremony, we were unable to plant two small American flags for Greg and Travis in our school Memory Garden that day.  Greg and Travis were part of General Zukauskas’ troops, and died in the line of duty.  We planted the flags earlier in the week, on a sunny day, in a very low-key and age appropriate fashion.  Many of my Aqua Room children watched.

While we were outside on the playground, a child asked if we could look at Greg and Travis’ flags.  “Of course”, I said, as we strolled over together.  After standing in silence for a few moments I asked, “Do you want to say anything?”  “Can we sing the star banner song?”, the child asked.  “You mean “The Star Spangled Banner?”, I asked.  As we both sang together, we were joined by two other children, wanting to sing, too.  After we finished the song another child said, “Old Mr. Wyatt was in the Army.  He died a long time ago.  Can we sing for him?”  Again we sang the National Anthem and the song drew more children to participate.  Then another child said, “My Uncle Jack was in a war.  He died.  Can we sing for him?”  Yes, we sang again, and drew even more children into this tender moment.  We sang again for for all the soldiers in heaven, and yet again for our troops overseas.

Five times we sang “The Star Spangled Banner”, and each time it was a child who wanted and needed  to sing for someone they knew.  Everyone stood proud and placed their hand over their heart while looking at those two small American flags.  Children understand.

Music is both powerful and intimate.  It can make you rise up with passion, testing and confirming your values.  It can also ground you so that you see, feel and understand the simplest and most important things in life.  Both seem to happen with patriotic songs.  It certainly happened singing “The Star Spangled Banner” in the Memory Garden.

Many years ago I discovered Peter Spier’s book, The Star Spangled Banner.  He illustrates each line in the song.  This book is enormous in teaching children our National Anthem, because it puts a picture to all the words.  Understanding ‘rampart’ and ‘towering steep’ becomes clear.  And, the book covers all the verses of the song.  This is the visual to understand our National Anthem and appreciate all it represents.  It takes me thirty minutes to read the book to my class, because every page has so many things to talk about.

Teaching young children about Memorial Day isn’t easy.  Music is a gift, as it resonates all that teachers want to say, in a way that children can understand.  Sing all those patriotic songs, not just on Memorial Day.  And, read books that can illustrate those songs.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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21 Responses to Memorial Day Remembrance

  1. Very touching memory from a past Memorial Day…
    It’s true, kids really do understand! 🙂 ♥ ❤

  2. Such a wonderful visual to picture all the children lifting their voices in respect for soldiers past and present. Sounds like they had a great start in learning about Memorial Day and I agree about the power of music.

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you, Marcia. I’m glad my words could convey what happened and the powerful effect it had on the children. I think it’s a combination of music, seeing the American flag planted on the playground, and a teacher paying close attention to what is happening. Those ‘moments’ are the most important. Many thanks, and I hope you enjoy Memorial Day. -Jennie-

  3. frenchc1955 says:

    This is, once again, an excellent post. Thank you.

  4. Sue Ranscht says:

    Isn’t the brain a marvelous thing? Music not only helps us learn, but holds the emotional memories we associate with it in a separate part of the brain from other things we learn. There is even evidence that music can trigger memories that seem to be lost to people who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

  5. swamiyesudas says:

    This has been Beautiful to read. The Children Really seem to have understood. Expressing their Love through such a beautiful medium as the National Anthem. And I find it significant that Others joined in with their friends to salute the loved ones. Hearty Congratulations and Regards to You on having Inspired them thus.

  6. reocochran says:

    I liked this post and have used flags and the Pledge of Allegiance daily in my preschool special needs children integrated with typically developing children. Your concept is valuable and had not run into the book by Peter Spiers.
    The children knew who had died as soldiers which also shows examples of great parents, too. Singing for the lost soldiers is a wonderful idea. So inspiring and thanks for your visit on my post over Memorial Day, Jennie.

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you, Robin. This year I had two Marines come to our Memorial Day Remembrance. One was a Captain who spoke so eloquently to the children in a very age appropriate way. The other was a Master Sergeant who was so moved that he became pretty choked up. It was a wonderful remembrance. I wouldn’t miss one of your blog posts for anything. Reading every poetic word along with your photo makes my day. Really.

      • reocochran says:

        I treasure your comments which really keep me going (and thinking about what to say, images to capture on my blog) when summer is a hard time to get through at work. Thank you, Jennie. ❤

      • jlfatgcs says:

        You are welcome.

      • reocochran says:

        You chose wonderful individuals to be featured guests this year, Jennie!
        I like how the Master Sergeant was moved by the Captain. So wonderful he instinctively used age appropriate language.
        These moments teach all present: guests, students and the teacher who notices each poignant moment. 🙂

      • jlfatgcs says:

        Thanks, Robin. You’re so right.

  7. When I taught first grade, one of the things I did with my students is we went over the pledge and Star-Spangled Banner, multiple times, using a question and answer format: What is liberty? Freedom. What is justice? Fairness. And so forth. And I read them that same Spiers book, too.

    Like you, I wanted them to really understand these words they were saying. I’m glad you give your students a heartfelt appreciation for these words we speak and sing. I believe it is truly a gift. 🙂

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Cathleen, that is so wonderful! you know the book and used it so children could have that visual to help them understand the words. Singing is incredibly important, especially with children. In the words of Hans Christian Anderson, “Where words fail, music speaks”. Often that is what speaks to young children. Many thanks for your story and your kind words. -Jennie-

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