Introduction

Unfortunately, without learning about the significance of Memorial Day in class, some students often view this national observance as nothing more than a three-day weekend. In reality, Memorial Day is an annual American holiday observed on the last Monday of May to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Many students have a connection to the U.S. military, whether it be through a family member or a friend that served and passed away. By bringing Memorial Day to the classroom, they will get the opportunity to honor the fallen. The resources below will give educators the necessary materials for helping students recognize the importance of Memorial Day!

Resources

There are an abundance of resources available online for teaching students about Memorial Day. It is important to remember the sacrifices so many people have made to protect the freedom of American citizens!

Lesson Plans

  1. Memorial Day in the Classroom – Resources for Teachers: Edutopia has compiled some of the online resources available for bringing this topic into the classroom. These resources include classroom ideas for remembering and honoring veterans and insightful Memorial Day multimedia from historical museums, national news outlets, and other sources. All the provided lesson plans, activities, videos, and learning materials may be useful to educators as they are working to implement Memorial Day into the curriculum.
  2. Memorial Day Lesson Ideas: The National Education Association (NEA) provides resources (lesson plans, books, videos, activities, background information, puzzles, etc.) for educators who teach grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The goal of these curriculum resources is to “reinforce the meaning behind Memorial Day observances” and honor the nation’s fallen men and women who dedicated their lives to protecting the citizens of the U.S. By utilizing these materials, educators can help their students grasp the significance of this holiday and the sacrifices made to preserve Americans’ freedom.
  3. Memorial Day Lesson Plans and Activities: Education World offers a collection of Memorial Day lesson ideas and additional resources to support educators who are looking to incorporate this day of remembrance into their curriculums. Lesson topics include remembering Vietnam heroes, teaching citizenship in five themes, bringing veterans’ stories to the classroom, connecting kids and soldiers, etc.

Articles

  1. 8 Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day: HISTORY has published an article discussing eight things most wouldn’t know about Memorial Day, including the fact that Memorial Day’s traditions may have ancient roots, one of the earliest commemorations was organized by recently freed slaves, the holiday’s founder had a long and distinguished career, and more. With this resource, students can learn more about the founding of Memorial’s Day and its traditions.
  2. Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?: TIME offers a brief article on why we celebrate Memorial Day (from a historical perspective). For educators who want their students to get a bit of background information on Memorial Day before participating in a class activity, this article will do the trick! 

Informational Sites

  1. Memorial Day: HISTORY offers an abundance of information on the early observances of Memorial Day, Decoration Day, the history of Memorial Day, and Memorial Day traditions. At the bottom of the webpage, there is a photo gallery containing various pictures related to Memorial Day, such as the Arlington National Cemetery, the birthplace of Memorial Day, and more.
  2. The Facts Behind Memorial Day’s Controversial History: National Geographic provides a number of facts behind Memorial Day’s controversial history. The author discusses Memorial Day’s disputed history, the shift from Decoration Day to Memorial Day after WWI, the conversation about restoring Memorial Day to May 30th, and Memorial Day observances. From this piece, students will learn much about the history of this holiday and its importance today.
  3. Memorial Day: Encyclopaedia Britannica provides some general information about Memorial Day, specifically regarding the history of Memorial Day and its traditions. This page would serve as a good introduction to a lesson plan or activity!
  4. Memorial Day – A Commemoration: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)  provides educators with video resources, online resources, and articles to utilize in the classroom while teaching students about Memorial Day. From these materials, students can learn key facts about this observance!

Conclusion

Teaching students about Memorial Day is an important job, but it can be a sensitive subject for anyone who has family or friends who are currently serving in the Armed Forces or who have passed away during their service. It is important to be aware of your students’ emotional reactions during the lesson, so you can talk to them individually about their feelings if needed. The resources above can provide you with information you may need to effectively teach your students about Memorial Day.

Additional Resources

  1. Memorial Day: Teacher Planet has put together a list of activities, lesson plans, printables, worksheets, coloring pages, clipart, and other resources for educators. This source offers students at all grade levels—especially those who are younger—a way to learn about Memorial Day.
  2. Memorial Day – Teacher Resources: TeacherVision presents a vast collection of educational videos, printables, lesson plans, references, art/music/drama activities, language arts activities, and resources on heroes & heroines, the U.S. Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the U.S. flag for educators to utilize.
  3. Memorial Day is Observed in the United States Today: ReadWriteThink offers a classroom activity which asks students to choose a veteran (from a specific site) and complete a specific project, such as a timeline, children’s picture book, or podcast. We encourage educators interested in bringing a unique activity into their classrooms to take a look!