Monday, May 20, 2013

Letters to Thank Our Veterans

We started writing "Thank You" notes to a veteran in honor of Veteran's Day.  Before writing I prepare a lesson to discuss the meaning of 'veteran' and 'service'.  (I use this interactive poster below to help the students build an understanding. Scroll your mouse over it -click if there is a red circle to go to a website or play the music & video. ) The letters thank these brave individuals for their service, sacrifice, bravery and courage. Very often my students get a response from their veteran and this year it was no different.  Many of those who wrote back explained about their time in the armed forces and the places they have been.  Many stated how this is the "first thank you" they ever received.  In this process the students end up learning more than just history and geography.


This year we have extended our writing by sending notes several times throughout the year to a local VA Hospital.  A local member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has been gracious enough to come in and speak with our fourth graders about how meaningful and important it is to recognize and thank our vets.  Mr. Frank tells the students how 'thrilled' the veterans are when they receive these cards and letters as many don't have family and therefore, don't receive mail.  He says that these notes are a highlight.  

I really didn't believe Mr. Frank until the other day when one Trever received a letter in the mail from one of the veterans in the hospital.  He mentioned in the note that he had undergone open heart surgery and was feeling particularly down.  He went on to say how that note "made his life!"  It gave him the strength to get better.  Also included in the note was a patch from the 1st Infantry Division which the gentleman had had since 1967!

We had to take our Thank You's even one step further.   I learned about this organization called, Honor Flight Network.  This non-profit organization flies World War II vets and terminally ill veterans to our nation's capital to see the memorials.  (My dad flew with them from Michigan to Washington, DC and had a most memorable trip!)  Recently, I learned there was an Honor Flight New England so I asked all the fourth grade students if they would be willing to write ONE more Thank You. Of course these great kiddos said "Yes!"  This time we researched the National World War II Memorial so we could weave in a fact or two with our thank you's.

The power of these notes is undeniable

 Here's what I received by email from Joe Byron, founder of Honor Flight:  Thank you to you, your children and your colleagues for the letters to our HEROES. I am sure that our most senior veterans will forever cherish the letters and cards that they receive in their "MAIL CALL".

But the power of these notes is not just for the veterans.  It truly gives my 10 year old students a chance to recognize the efforts of others while learning about our country's heroes.  Students are interested in what these folks did during their time in the service.  They really take such pride in their work because they know it is important work! It would please you to read these heartfelt letters of thanks and know that today's generation  (your child!) really does care!

More Resources:

Operation Gratitude:  Writing Letters & Sending Care Packages to Veterans

A Million Thanks - Year round campaign to show appreciation to Veterans, past, present & future.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Praying Mantids & Cicadas

What do Praying Mantids and Cicadas have in common?  Ask your child as that was a homework assignment late last week. Or better yet, have them show you the assignment in Edmodo!

The other day we just happened to be lucky enough to be part of a mini lesson about Praying Mantids.  A middle school Science teacher from New Jersey was LIVE Streaming a lesson.  DanDan the ScienceMan  has been waiting for his Praying Mantid egg sacks to hatch.   My students watched as the enthusiastic teacher spoke about the insect.  We quickly reviewed the information following the 5 minute lesson.  (Watch a pre-recorded version of the lesson HERE - there is a brief commercial beforehand).

Interestingly, that very same day, during our math period, I had planned my own lesson on an insect...the Magicada Septendicum or Magic Cicada.  This cicada comes out once every 17 years and this happens to be one of those years. (The math lesson was about prime numbers.) Watching the students as they watched the video of these fascinating creatures was priceless.  See the pictures below and then watch the video for yourself!

Incorporating different areas of the curriculum in one lesson helps students make connections.  It embodies what life is like in the real world - science, math, reading, writing and other disciplines all coming together instead of separately.

Video of Magicada Septendicum