WASHINGTON – When Windsor Knolls Middle School staff and students gather around the flagpole for a special Veterans Day ceremony Friday morning, they will be joined by 100 veterans who are coming to the school to share their experiences with the children.
The Frederick County school’s event will be one of the biggest of many events planned around the state, in response to President Bush’s call for schools to bring in veterans to talk about the history and significance of Veterans Day.
The responses range from the elaborate, like Windsor Knolls, to other schools that are not doing anything because they said there was not enough time to plan anything after Bush’s Oct. 30 call for “Lessons of Liberty.”
But Windsor Knolls Principal Donna Faith the event is more important now than ever.
“In light of everything that has happened in the last two months, they (students) have a greater understanding of patriotism,” Faith said.
Bush issued his call during a visit to Thomas Wootten High School in Rockville. The U.S. Education Department sent a memo earlier this week to school systems across the nation, reminding them of the president’s initiative and suggesting that schools bring students and veterans together to “give students a better understanding of the sacrifices our armed forces are making today.”
The Maryland State Department of Education followed Thursday with a letter to local superintendents. But that letter also acknowledged that the week of Nov. 11 is American Education Week, and that “your schools may already have celebration events planned for that time.”
Many local superintendents said they passed the president’s message on to their schools, but that there was not enough notice for many. But many others have gotten in the spirit.
At Wootten High, students and teachers are encouraged to wear red, white and blue on Monday and to bring a dollar for America’s Fund for Afghan Children, said Principal Rebecca Newman. Parents are invited to attend an assembly where Ron Ten Eyck, a decorated World War II veteran, and two other veterans will speak to students.
“We have really tried to reorient and encourage parents to come in this year,” said Newman. “We have always had speakers come in along the way, but this is a specialized effort.”
In Queen Anne’s County, eighth graders at Stevensville Middle School expect more than 100 veterans Monday, said Jeff Miller, a language arts teacher. The Veterans Day program was organized by the eighth grade class as part of its yearlong student service learning project. This year’s theme is recognizing veterans, said Miller.
Stevensville students will convert a teacher planning area into a mini- museum of artifacts that they have collected, including uniforms, personal letters, photos and flag pieces.
At Southern High School in Oakland, students have interviewed veterans for the past three years, collaborating on a book of more than 80 oral histories that will be published in the spring, said Matt Novak, a retired American history teacher from the high school.
Novak, now a member of the Garrett County Historical Society, started the program in 1998 when he was teaching at Southern, because he was “trying to find ways to make research and projects more interesting to my students.” He said the book will be more than 300 pages and include student art and research from World War II editions of The Republican, the local newspaper.
“Some of my worst students in terms of grades did the best job because they were interested in what they were doing,” said Novak.
He said that students at the Garrett County high school are now working with Delegate George C. Edwards, R-Garrett, on a bill that would let counties grant high school diplomas to veterans who left school in their senior year to serve in the Korean War. A similar bill was passed for World War II veterans last year.
Many schools that have planned events in response to the president’s call said that, since Sept. 11, students have been especially interested in organizing and participating in the activities.
“In light of everything that has happened in the last two months, I anticipate an even more in-depth understanding,” said Faith of Windsor Knolls Middle. “They certainly have something to relate to.”