A Day to Learn, A Day to Say Thanks
Not all school districts were open on Veterans Day. In fact, many were closed in Connecticut and around the country. It is not a federal requirement to close on Veterans Day, but rather a decision left up to individual school districts. Several years ago Woodbridge and the other BOWA districts decided to remain open, and use the day to include Veterans Day activities, in which children throughout the school would learn why the holiday is celebrated and hear from veterans about their service in the military. Students also learned to thank vets in letters and cards, delivered to the VA Hospital in West Haven.
Events and lessons were planned for the school as a whole, as well as other activities at each grade level. The Beecher Road School (BRS) Band directed by Mr. Letsch started the school-wide assembly with a performance of patriotic songs to honor veterans. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gaeton Stella provided welcoming remarks before Deputy Police Chief Raymond Stuart, a retired US Navy veteran, spoke to the audience of students, staff and invited veterans about military service. Principal Gina Prisco introduced by name each of the many veterans who were in the audience. Afterwards, the veterans visited classes throughout the school.
In preparing for the day, BRS students wrote letters and cards of thanks to veterans that Principal Prisco delivered to the Veterans Hospital in West Haven. Outside the cafeteria, the school’s Wall of Honor for staff and family who have served in the military continued to grow as more photos and tributes were attached.
In each of the grades, kindergarten through six, age-appropriate activities were conducted by teachers. A sampling of the lessons and activities ranged from kindergarteners learning how veterans serve our country, to fourth graders learning the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Fifth graders have been reading America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven, a book about setting a solemn and solitary table with special items to honor fallen military personnel. The students and teachers responded in writing about their reaction and understandings gained from the book. They performed a special ceremony in the Rotunda that was based on the book.
Prior to Veterans Day, sixth grade students interviewed veterans in their family or among their friends and shared their reflections and findings with their classmates. Also in the sixth and fifth grade assembly, Branford, Connecticut Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez, a retired Lt. Colonel from the US Marine Corps, spent time talking about why he was drawn to the military and about service to family, community and country. Veterans Day at BRS was a true day of learning.