Veterans Day in my classroom is about far more than honoring our veterans. For preschoolers it is an introduction to the American flag and our country. It is history, geography, and patriotic songs. What started out as a day to embrace these activities became far more than anticipated.
We began by hanging the flag and using a big map of the United States at Morning Meeting.
There was much to talk about- where we live (Massachusetts is small), north south east and west, oceans and mountains. With the American flag hanging behind us, children could better understand that 50 states = 50 stars.
I asked children, “If you see someone in a military uniform this weekend, what should you do?” A few children knew that “Say thank you” is the right thing to do. Then I said, “You can also shake their hand, like this.” I shook every child’s hand. Learning how to shake hands is important!
We moved the big map to a table and added our ‘travel box’, filled with maps, postcards, real money, and magnifying glasses. While children were eager to crowd around and ‘travel’ across America, a few children took it upon themselves to move all the classroom chairs over to the big rug, line them up, and pretend it was a plane. They brought along their maps and began to travel.
This is the heart of learning, where children grab onto what is happening, embrace a concept or activity, and take it upon themselves to do more. It’s called Emergent Curriculum. Children guide what happens next. That’s the learning that ‘sticks’.
We played patriotic songs in the background. Emmett begged to hear the song “This Land is Your Land” and also look at the book. Between using the big map, flying on a plane in the chairs, and singing, it was a full morning. We still had time to do painting as well.
In the afternoon, we had a guest and his guitar visit us. It is always very cool to see and hear a real instrument. Travis wanted to play and sing two patriotic songs. First he tuned his guitar (you could have heard a pin drop) with 15 wide-eyed children watching. He sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, with a fabulous voice and a great guitar ending. It was wonderful. Then he wanted to sing, “This Land is Your Land.” Emmett was thrilled, as were most of the children- we sing it often, all six verses.
To my good luck, Travis plays the song in the key of D, and so do I. We were then able to play the chorus and sing together.
Thank you, Travis! And another opportunity for children to see a handshake.
We finished the day reading a book about America, Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus. Simple text, gorgeous illustrations. For example, red rows depicting rows of trees in red foliage and also red rows on the flag. I highly recommend this book. I’m picky, and don’t buy many books. This was a ‘must have’ for me.
It was a very good day for children.