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Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

Remembering Our Past, Sharing Our Stories

flag on veteran's day

Today was once known as Armistice Day – now known as Veteran’s Day.

This is a day to reflect on and “be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service” since 1919. Today is a day for us to remember our past. Sometimes remembering our past can be hard to do. It can be filled with painful memories and as time goes by, memories – both good and bad – can begin to fade. Sometimes we need to step back from the focus on the future and take a moment to archive our history.

veteran's day with childIt recently occurred to me while watching re-runs of Charlie Brown, Bugs & Daffy, and some Donald Duck cartoons that my school age children are not familiar with references to World War II. I started thinking about it. I knew what these references meant when I was their age. Was it because I was closer to that part of history? Did it have to do with the fact that my grandfathers had fought in World War II? I am not sure the answer but this intrigued me.

I started realizing that my familiarity with 1900’s American History had to do with family stories. I was able to connect to stories of Prohibition and the Depression because of stories from my family. I was familiar with the Dust Bowl Days because my relatives moved from Oklahoma and Arkansas to California during this time. I knew about World War II because it had a big impact on the courtship of both of my grandparents. I was aware of one of American’s little secrets; the internment of Japanese Americans, because our community fairground was used as a waypoint. But somehow, over the years our family stories have changed. These stories have been replaced with newer stories from a not so distant past.

So how does this impact us in the afterschool field?

Shouldn’t children and youth be getting this information in their history and social studies classes? We cannot leave learning our history to the classroom and books. It is important for us to remember to share our stories. Share the stories of the moments in history that stood out to you. Where were you when Regan was shot or for the Challenger disaster? Do you have stories from the gas crisis of the 70’s or the last major drought? What about the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989? Do you remember the first computer you used, or cell phone? How about when the US Women’s Soccer team won the World Cup in 1999? Where were you on September 11, 2001? Pass on your living history to those around you.

One of my favorite ways to share history with children and youth is through books. There are quite a few excellent fiction and non-fiction selections that tell the story of our past, many times through the eyes of young people. Each year the National Council for Social Studies releases a list of reviewed books for young people. The selected books highlight many different aspects of history.

Recently my daughter’s 5th grade class did a project on Veterans for their school’s Wall of Pride. She was able to interview her dad. My husband recounted to her his story of being in the US Navy on September 11th, 2001. For her to hear what it felt like to be isolated on a ship, no communication with your family, with not enough supplies while waiting to find out if your city or ship was a target was a new story for her. She also learned her great grandmother who was a “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II and the role women played in the war effort. Projects like this that connect family members and their stories to today’s youth are priceless experiences for all involved.

So I challenge you today, Veteran’s Day, to not just think but act. How will you bring the past into your program?

I may have had some leftover Halloween candy and a Diet Coke for breakfast while catching up on my lit. circle book, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

Author profile: @eppispeppy

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