Memorial Day has officially been celebrated on the last Monday of May since 1971 but before that it was celebrated as Decoration Day on May 30 to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers during the Civil War. Memorial Day has a long history for the people of the United States and it's an important time to honor those who died in America's wars.
Usually during the long holiday weekend people enjoy getting together to celebrate by having a barbecue or taking the extra time to travel somewhere new. But this year, Memorial Day follows right on the heels of Covid-19 restrictions. We won't be spending the weekend doing the things we normally do, but we wanted to do something to remember this special day. Thankfully a craft and reading great books together can be even more meaningful than a day spent at the beach or at a barbecue.
If you're in the same boat this year, then I hope you'll enjoy this craft and the books I've put together. The books were the perfect conduit to get the conversation started and the questions flowing. Creating a poppy together was the perfect time to talk about the questions my kids had. Even if you don't have kids at home the craft is a beautiful way to remember. I enjoyed doing it just as much as my kids!
SUPPLY LIST FOR THE POPPY CRAFT:
Red construction paper
Black construction paper
Hot glue gun
Lightly trace the outline of a poppy petal on a red sheet of construction paper. It is similar to the shape of a scallop shell. If you're doing this craft with kids remember - it doesn't have to be perfect! The important thing is to let them be creative.
Cut out the first poppy petal.
Use the first poppy petal to trace 4 to 6 more petals then cut them all out. Afterwards, cut a small slit centered at the bottom of each petal about a centimeter long.
Using a hot glue gun, place a small drop of hot glue on one side of the slit and fold over the other side so the petal barely curves.
Cut a small circle out of black construction paper and cut small slits all around the edge. This will be glued into the middle of the poppy.
Slightly curl the cut edges of the black circle upwards to add extra dimension to the center.
Hot glue the bottom corners of the petals together and then the black center piece.
Your Memorial Day poppy is done!
LESSON PLAN AND BOOKS FOR MEMORIAL DAY:
We do a lot of learning through literature so this lesson plan mainly focuses on reading quality books together and answering questions as they come up. This allows both myself and my kids to learn new things and research questions together. You will not find a set of questions and answers here, but simply a list of books I use and recommend for teaching about Memorial Day.
The Poppy Lady by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh
The Poppy Lady tells the story of Moina Belle Michael who was a school teacher from the state of Georgia that lived in the shadow of the US Civil War. Inspired by experiences supporting efforts during WW I in Europe, she launched a national campaign to establish the red poppy as the symbol of Flanders Field, Belgium. Since then, wearing a red poppy is a tradition that has been adopted by over 50 other countries! One of my favorite parts of the book says "Moina believed anything was possible if you did your best and followed through. Throughout her life she often relied on her favorite motto: Whatsoever your hands find to do, do it with all your might."
If you want to spend more time teaching from The Poppy Lady, this guide is very comprehensive and perfect for Upper Elementary students. You could easily spend a week incorporating these questions and activities!
The Wall by Eve Bunting
The Wall follows a father and his young son that have gone to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to find the name of the grandfather that the little boy never got to meet. The book is sad but also full of pride and honor at the same time. You will appreciate the story even more if you've visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. My favorite part of the book comes after they've found the boy's grandfather on the wall:
"Grandpa won't know who I am," I tell Dad.
"I think he will," Dad says.
I move closer to him. "It's sad here."
He puts his hand on my shoulder. "I know. But it's a place of honor. I'm proud that your grandfather's name is on this wall."
"I am, too."
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margot Theis Raven
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot is the true story of the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949 that is one of the greatest humanitarian missions the world has experienced. British and American forces flew more than 277,000 missions and delivered more than 2.3 million supplies! The history in the book will blow you away and the kindness of the people in the story will make you want to be a better person. My favorite part of this book was the letter that Mercedes wrote to one of the pilots, Lt. Gail Halvorsen:
"Dear Chocolate Pilot,
We live near the airfield at Tempelhof, and our chickens think your airplanes are chicken hawks so they become frightened when you fly over to land. They run in shelter and some molt with no more eggs from them. It is a big problem for us. We need the eggs. But when you fly over the garden and see the white chickens, please drop some candy there and all will be ok. I don't care if you scare them.
Your little friend,
America's White Table by Margot Theis Raven
America's White Table will be especially meaningful to you if you've ever seen that small white table at a formal military event or a mess hall. Every detail of the table has a special meaning and this book will walk you through each part of it. It is an important message for all ages to remember how expensive freedom can be. This book will draw you in from the very beginning with the words "It was just a little white table... but it brought tears of pride to my Uncle John's eyes the Veterans Day he came for dinner and stood by it --set for one person-- even though nobody would be eating at it."
The Arkansas PBS website has a helpful lesson with activities and a "HERO" acrostic that is perfect for even the youngest reader.
Memorial Day Activity Guide from Beautiful Feet Books
This last resource is only $5.00 and it's a downloadable guide that will take you through each of these books with videos, conversation starters, activities, and even recipes! Beautiful Feet Books is one of my favorite homeschool resources that I use for several subjects including history, science, and geography. If you're not familiar with them have a look around their website. They even offer some discounts, so make sure you check out that part of their website, too.
If you've stuck with me and read this far, thank you! Even if you don't have these books you can still make Memorial Day a special time to remember. The important thing is to teach our kids to never forget those that have gone before us and died protecting our freedom.
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