Sunday, September 14, 2014

10 Ways to Observe Veteran's Day in Art Class

Ohio state law requires school districts to host an official observance of Veteran’s Day “that conveys the meaning and significance of that day.” Although our school plans an annual service for veterans, I like to reinforce the importance of Veteran’s Day in my art room. In art class, there is a unique opportunity to discuss our veterans, not just in historical fact, but through art, images and emotion. Even if your state does not require formal observation, here are 10 ways to observe Veteran’s Day in art class:

1. Discuss military photojournalism - Research iconic military photos taken during wartime, from today’s soldiers kneeling before makeshift memorials of fallen comrades to famous images from D-Day and V-Day. Review photojournalism as a career, and discuss the hazards for war journalists when they follow a company of soldiers.

2. Explore military emblems - Show the official emblems and seals of each military branch, explaining the significance of their imagery. Students propose an updated design for a new branch emblem, or create an artwork using the original image as their subject.

3. Design a memorial - Discuss the impact of memorial sculptures containing veterans, such as the Korean War Memorial in Washington. After researching current military events, students design an original sculpture to commemorate veterans of today’s recent battles.

4. Explore military uniforms - Show students the uniforms of each military branch, from dress blues to camouflage, and every style between. Explain how each uniform has a function and significance, and compare and contrast the styles of the Marines, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Students then design a new official uniform for one of the military branches.

5. Discuss the American flag - As a symbol of hope, loyalty, patriotism and duty, explain the history of the American flag, the significance of its colors and shapes, and the great respect and care our military shows the flag. Discuss how the flag has been used in art and visual culture, and its impact in today’s society.

6. Plan an art class service project - Veteran’s Day can be observed in art class by serving veterans in their own community. Advanced art classes could paint portraits of veterans or those who have fallen, an art auction could benefit a local veterans organization, or crafty students could assemble blankets, scarves or hats for the needy.

7. Create a class-wide mural - Art classes can collaborate on murals commemorating Veteran’s Day, signifying the branches of the military, the sacrifices made by soldiers, or our gratitude toward those serving our country.

8. Design thank you notes - Elementary art classes can observe Veteran’s Day by creating personal thank you notes that can be given to local veterans or sent overseas. Include art learning by teaching printing techniques or discussing illustration as a career.

9. Explore The Shrine Down the Hall - This haunting photo series by photographer Ashley Gilbertson depicts the bedrooms left behind by young soldiers killed in the line of duty, lovingly maintained by their families. To a high school photography, design or art class, this photo series is an excellent way to mark the significance of Veteran’s Day - and those who gave their lives for our country - in a touching, personal way.

10. Create music-inspired patriotic artwork - In art class, play patriotic music, such as the “Marine Corps Hymn” (and other military songs), the National Anthem, America the Beautiful, and even patriotic songs by contemporary artists like “American Soldier” by Toby Keith. Elementary students can illustrate lyrics or free-draw, while older students create more advanced artworks after observing Veteran’s Day and reflecting on the song lyrics.

Veteran’s Day shouldn’t be an event wrapped up in a tidy one-hour school ceremony. Whether you teach art, music, English or math, take time to observe Veteran’s Day in your lessons, and help your students get more out of this day than just time out of class.

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