Honoring Veterans Day: Activity Ideas for Teachers, Staff, and Youth Counselors
By Tonya Nascimento (PhD, LMHC, CMPC)
Veterans Day is one of the first military holidays of the school year and each year, teachers, counselors, and school staff prepare multiple student activities and events in honor of those who have served. Generating fresh, new activities each year can be a challenge. To help, Magellan Federal has provided the following creative Veterans Day activity ideas for those working in schools and youth centers.
Veterans Day Best Practices
- White Table: Used to recognize POWs and MIAs, this table is often set up on the school stage, corner of the lunchroom, library, or it may be part of a Veterans Day breakfast or assembly. Margot Theis Raven wrote a book called “America’s White Table” making the symbolism accessible to children. The book may be read in classrooms as a launching point for group discussions.
- Multi-grade Art Project: Students work on different art projects based on their grade, and it culminates into one finished piece. The K-1 students color gingerbread figure outlines with camouflage colors, students in grades 2-3 decorate stars and write thank you notes for Veteran staff, parents, and other family members, and students in grades 4-5 create patriotic pinwheels. The pinwheels adorn the front lawn of the school with a sign hanging on the wall that states “Thank You Veterans”.
- Honor Walls: Each student in the school has an opportunity to write the names of Veterans they know on brick-sized rectangle papers that are then placed in a brick pattern on an interior wall of the school. Another option is to ask students to interview Veterans in their family or neighborhood and create a poster to display in the school cafeteria. Schools could also encourage students to bring in pictures of their veteran family members and display the photos on a banner displayed in a special area.
- Veterans Day Scavenger Hunt: Have students decorate an item with images such as flags or families with a mom or dad in uniform and then hide the item. The class that finds the decorated item can write a message on it and present it to a Veteran.
- Veteran Teacher Recognition: One way to honor Veterans in the schools is to recognize those currently teaching who served in the military before their teaching careers. This can be done in various ways:
- Partner with school clubs to decorate the doors of Veteran teachers with yellow ribbons, patriotic wreaths, or thank you signs.
- Provide Veteran teachers or the teachers who are spouses of Veterans small, inexpensive goodie bags.
- Create an honor wall specifically for Veteran teachers to let students know their teachers had prior service. This wall could show their teachers in uniform from their service days.
Whether you incorporate one of the ideas presented above or utilize your own creative idea, this military holiday provides an important opportunity to recognize and honor those who have served.
Tonya Nascimento (PhD, LMHC, CMPC) is a Regional Supervisor for Magellan Federal working in the Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program. Tonya earned a master’s degree from the University of West Florida in 2007, became a licensed mental health counselor, and earned a PhD in sport psychology from Florida State University in 2012. She was a visiting assistant professor at the University of West Florida for two years and currently remains on staff as an adjunct instructor. In 2014, she took a position as a mental performance specialist embedded with the Air Force Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt AFB. This first military position gave Tonya a close-up view of the sacrifices, struggles, resilience, and fortitude Special Operations soldiers face, and eventually led her to discovering the MFLC program. Tonya became an MFLC, and for seven years she supported military-connected students in Okaloosa County schools. In June she accepted the regional supervisor position. She enjoys using her education and experience to positively impact and serve the military community.