Get Ready for Veterans Day with Heroes Among Us

"The journey of the hero is about the courage to seek the depths." - Phil Cousineau

“The journey of the hero is about the courage to seek the depths.” – Phil Cousineau

With Veterans Day just around the corner, November 11th, you may want to think about doing a lesson comparing dog heroes to our human heroes. This lesson, aligned with the Common Core, is broken into three parts. I will be starting this lesson with my class on Monday with the hopes of holding our culminating activity on November 11.

Part 1: Alaska’s Dog Heroes

One might not think of a dog in terms of a hero. After you read Alaska’s Dog Heroes by Shelley Gill your mind may be changed. To introduce this lesson have your students brainstorm the definition of a hero. Then discuss the actual definition of a hero and have your students create a list of qualities or traits a hero might display. As I discuss these traits with my class, we will reflect on the traits included on our Iditarod quilt squares that we created earlier this year. Are the traits they thought of for their mushers similar to the traits they came up with for heroes in general?

In small groups, the students will read a couple of short stories from Alaska’s Dog Heroes. I am going to assign each group two different stories so that all groups have different dog heroes to read about. After reading, I will ask students to make a list of qualities their dog hero displayed in the story. We will then make an electronic trading card. Click here to get to the e-trading card creator website. This website is very easy to use and you are able to finish any unfinished work and continue at a different time, in case students need more a separate session to finish. Students are also able to accumulate a collection of trading cards that can be traded with other classmates or the teacher. My class plans to print and laminate our trading cards to display.

Part 2: Heroes Among Us

My grandpa, Lyle Lockard, served in World War II

My grandpa, Lyle Lockard, served in World War II

I feel strongly about young people honoring and giving respect to our nation’s veterans. My students will now be asked to glimpse into the life of a local veteran. If you contact your local VFW you can access a list of veterans in your community. In their small groups, the students will  choose one veteran from our town to focus on. As a whole class, we will discuss traits one must demonstrate in wartime. We will look back at our dog hero traits and compare those qualities.

Returning to their small groups, students will start forming questions to ask their veteran. Example questions could be: when did you enlist, why did you enlist, length of enlistment, branch of armed forces, etc. Depending on your local VFW, you may be able to also get contact information for the vets. If so, have your students contact their vet during class. This fits perfectly with the speaking and listening standards in the Common Core. Remind the students to introduce themselves and explain the class project. You should also have the kids ask their vet if they mind answering a few questions. I am going to have my students put the phone on speaker so everyone in the group can hear and they can all work on recording answers. Following the interview, the students will go back to their e-trading card collection.  They will now create a trading card on their veteran. Again, the students will print their trading cards. To conclude part two, the class will share their dog hero and “Hero Among Us” with the class.

Part 3: Heroes Among Us Assembly

Our culminating activity for this lesson is organizing and holding an assembly honoring our “Heroes Among Us.” If possible, hold your assembly on or close to Veterans Day. Put the students in charge of all the planning, including the order of events. They must invite their veterans and anyone else they feel should be there. It would be a good idea to contact your local newspaper or television news channel.

To prepare for the assembly students need to create a certificate for their veteran. Our certificate will say something similar to, “Camanche Middle School Honors (Name of Veteran) as a Hero Among Us.”  We will also present each veteran with a mini flag, along with the e-trading card the students made in class.  The students also need to choose a main speaker who welcomes everyone, explains the class project, and introduces each group. When each group is called to the stage at the assembly, they will introduce their veteran to our guests. They will then share with the guests the information they learned about their vet. Finally, they will present their vet with the trading card, flag, and certificate telling them they are a “hero among us.” A possible closing for the assembly is to have a couple of band students play Taps.

I am very excited to start this lesson on Monday. I think it will be a great opportunity for students to learn more about the diversity of heroes among us.

If you don’t have Alaska’s Dog Heroes, you still have time to order it to be able to do this lesson coinciding with Veterans Day.  Go to Shelley Gill’s website and order your copy today.

Heroes Among Us Lesson Plan