In the fall of 1914, it was clear to many that the Great War would end by Christmas. But the conflict we now call World War I carried on for four more years as a generation of soldiers toiled in the mud of no man’s land. Finally, an armistice — an end to hostilities — was agreed, and began on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, November 11, 1918.
A Day of Remembrance
Since then, November 11 has been a day of remembrance for nations across Europe and around the world. Alternatively called Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, it has been recognized formally and informally since its first anniversary in 1919, when then-President Woodrow Wilson told his fellow citizens:
To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.“Supplement to the Messages and Papers of the Presidents: Covering the Second Term of Woodrow Wilson, March 4, 1917, to March 4, 1921″. Bureau of National Literature. November 11, 2015.
What can we take away from the experience of service members? How do we understand their role in society and the effects of their service on themselves and for all Americans? These questions have guided America’s observance of the November 11 holiday since its inception.
In 1945, in the wake of the second World War, Alabama veteran Raymond Weeks advocated to expand the holiday beyond just a way of honoring those who died in World War I. Eventually, in 1954, then-President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill altering the existing Armistice celebration into Veterans Day, meant to honor all U.S. veterans.
Memory in the Classroom
Remembering the Veterans Day holiday can raise useful learning questions about civic engagement, government, history, and even personal genealogy and family trees. The frame of Veterans Day can prompt discussions of changing season, holidays, and more. In some places, students, workers, and federal officials may have a day off from work or school, at the very least prompting the question: What’s this holiday about?
For educators looking to use the day as a teaching occasion, there are many tools to select from, including those from official sources and everyday teachers alike.
- The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City hosts a full archive of lesson plans for K–12 students on a number of topics from art to sociology, including lessons like “Animals of the Great War” and “Creating WWI Personas and Writing Postcards from the Front.”
- The museum also shares opportunities for professional development, as well as a large trove of outside educational resources and a complete back catalogue of newsletters for educators, which you can subscribe to or search here.
- Check out the Teacher Resource Guide (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the veterans-related resources provided by Operation We Are Here, as well as resources for students in grade 1–6 from Scholastic, and more lesson ideas from educators at Share My Lesson and the Hey Teach! blog from WGU.
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