(Elementary School Kids)
by Stacy Huisman and Becky Harris
Families On The Home Front
In 1986 April was designated Month of the Military Child by Casper Weinberger to recognize and thank children from military families for the sacrifices they make living the military lifestyle. Purple Up is the campaign that propels activities throughout the Month of the Military Child to honor, acknowledge, and support Military Connected Youth in our schools and communities. A Military Connected Youth is a child or adolescent with a close family member (parent, step parent, sibling, step-sibling, cousin) or friend serving in any branch of the United States Armed Forces and any status, Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard. Military Connected Youth face unique circumstances living the military lifestyle, which can be challenging, or opportunities for growth.
These kids deserve our support as they support their family members who serve. Here are some ideas for you to consider celebrating the Month of the Military Child, April 2016. These are great ideas for PTA or PTO’s to initiate or school staff and counselors. Showing your support and acknowledging the uniqueness of the military lifestyle helps transitioning kids succeed in the classroom and their community.
PURPLE UP! Create an atmosphere in the school building celebrating the diversity of Military Connected Youth/Children (MCY).
1) Kick off the Month of the Military Child with a breakfast, or lunch for Military Connected Youth in the school. Include their parents or other family members associated with the military. This could be grandparents, neighbors or friends. It’s a great way to for relate civilian kids with military kids – showing how we all connected. Ask everyone to wear purple and invite all military members to wear their uniform.
In one school, the PTO/PTA picked up the tab for lunch in the school cafeteria for everyone in uniform – a very nice touch. Everyone else wore purple to support the kids, including grandparents who served, too. Retirees and veterans dusted off their old uniforms for the occasion. It was a beautiful sea of camo and purple in the lunch room!
Invite the school public information office out and have them invite the local media. It’s a feel good story and most TV and local papers are willing to pick up the story. Don’t forget to invite staff who were once MCY (formerly called military brats) or who may have a close family member serving our country.
2) Dress-up throughout the month of April. Identify one day each week in April to highlight MCY. Ideas include: favorite service logo day, patriotic day, Purple day, etc. April 15th is the official day of the PURPLE UP! It’s always fun to see a school full of purple and smiling faces.
3) Highlight April as Month of the Military Child on the school’s marquee and in staff and parent newsletters.
4) Have a daily or weekly announcement with military-connected student facts. Start with the national facts and move into school facts.
5) Throughout the month ask a MCY to do the announcements or share an interesting fact about their life as a MCY on the morning news show.
6) Decorate display cases and bulletin boards throughout April with military focused memorabilia, or items brought by MCY reflecting their experiences (where they have live or traveled, family members’ service memorabilia, parts of a uniform, patches, coins, models of planes etc.)
7) Create a world map and pinpoint where students and staff have lived because of their military lifestyle. Also have civilian kids mark the different places they have lived, too. This is a great way to start a conversation between kids, show how they are similar and different. At our last school, civilian kids were amazed at the places military kids have lived and vice versa. The world map was located in the cafeteria where ALL students could see, touch and communicate with each other.
8) Decorate the school. Have a group of kids design posters thanking MCY and their parents for their service. Have MCY make posters reflecting their experiences. Decorate with Purple Balloons. Have staff and students wear purple ribbons or carnations.
9) Adopt a deployed service member or unit. Create Care Packages for deployed troops. As a service project collect items from a class, grade, school group, or whole school. Packages can be sent to a student’s family member or another unit identified through the school or community. Collect items from April 4-22, then take the week of April 25 the to pack up and ship. Don’t forget notes, card, pictures etc. For ideas of what to send contact a family member, local installation, or Red Cross.
10) As a service project adopt a deployed family. Find out what a family with a deployed service member needs help with. A class or school group can help with yard work, in home technology, childcare, tutoring, homework help, a weekend buddy, care package for the kids in the family and/or deployed member. This can be Tricky for some families with deployed member because of confidentiality, but it might be able to be done if handled correctly.
11) Create an atmosphere in individual classrooms to bring an awareness of MCY’s lifestyle to their peers through conservations – ask questions, share experiences and point out the relatable experiences that all children have like: Talk about what it may feel like going to new school or on the first day of school, having parents leave on business trip, struggling making new friends or having to say goodbye to friends.
12) Ask a military member (a parent or sibling of someone in the class) to be a guest speaker and share their perspective on life in the military as well as their profession.
Classroom activities and projects that help connect MCY students with their peers:
13) Create a Hero Wall to honor those in public service: A bulletin board or posters pinned up about heroes in a child’s life. It could be a family member or family friend currently serving or a veteran who served (living or dead). It could also be someone who does good in a community- firefighters, policemen, first responders, religious figures etc. Keeping the idea that kids can connect and share about who they think a hero is.
14) Time Zone Wall: A series of clocks on a wall identifying different time zones from around the world, with a focus on where a deployed family may be, where a MCY lived in the past, or where a MCY might be moving to.
15) Story time using books about military kids’ experience, the military lifestyle, being the new kid in school, or appreciating differences in one another.
16) Show-n-Tell – Have students in something military related. Examples: memorabilia from an installation or service branch, favorite airplane, book, military character, items or pictures from prior living locations, pictures or anything related to being a mil kid.
17) Write letters or draw pictures and send to deployed family members. They “serve too” and would benefit from a class pick me up.
18) As a class service project to send thank you cards to a local military installation, a local veteran home or get well cards to service members in a local military hospital.