SMS students learn meaning of Memorial Day

In 8th grade, Sudlersville Middle students learn from English Language Arts teacher, Stephanie Mackenzie, left, the magnitude of what lies behind the observance of Memorial Day.

SUDLERSVILLE — At Sudlersville Middle School, teacher Stephanie MacKenzie led 8th grade students in a Service Learning project this school year, titled “Honoring Veterans.” Beginning in the fall, students went through a study of what the true costs of war are.

A key element of the English Language Arts teacher’s course, students read “Stop the Sun,” a short story by Gary Paulsen that follows a boy trying to understand his father’s struggles with post traumatic stress (PTSD) following his service during the Vietnam War.

From there, the 8th graders conducted research on PTSD, analyzed data trends of veteran homelessness, and learned about the impact of chemical warfare on the environment. As a culmination to this project, the students wrote letters, created presentations, and original art pieces that were sent overseas through Operation Gratitude to our armed forces.

On Friday, May 28, in an extension of this project — to really focus on what Memorial Day means — MacKenzie, who was also this year’s Teacher of the Year for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, and Heidi Wohlleber, QACPS Special Educator, created a scavenger hunt based on resources from the Smithsonian Institute and NewsELA.

Students learned the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day in this lesson. They also had the chance to learn about the origination of Memorial Day, including that it was called Decoration Day at first, MacKenzie shared.

Finally, students were asked to reflect upon what Memorial Day means to them.

“As a history enthusiast, and stark believer in the impact of civic responsibility, I always educate students about important holidays, historical events, and promote civic engagement,” MacKenzie said.

“My job is to educate the future which I take very seriously. My personal philosophy is that through service to the community, one has a profound positive impact. This is something I try to instill in every student that walks through my door,” she said.

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