On Monday, Canadians from coast to coast set aside time to commemorate Remembrance Day. As wet snow fell from the sky in Ottawa, thousands gathered around the city’s National War Memorial for a moment of silence. In Vancouver, hundreds of thousands filled Victory Square. In Toronto, crowds came together under rainy skies at the Old City Hall Cenotaph.
Across Ontario, OACS schools also took time to remember. Morning assemblies in schools like Trenton Christian School in Quinte West and John Knox Christian School in Stoney Creek allowed staff and students to pause, to grieve the reality of war, and to honour the millions of Canadians who served or lost their lives during times of war. In many instances, prayers for peace were followed by the affirmation that our world belongs to God.
At Laurentian Hills Christian School (LHCS), staff, students and community members took part in a ceremony that included Bible readings, prayer, the laying of wreaths, special music, a moment of silence, and a reading of “In Flanders Fields.” Corporal Natasha Gale, a member of the Primary Reserve infantry regiment, also came to the school as a guest speaker. “It was a moving ceremony,” says Rodney Kooy, Grade 8 teacher at LHCS. “We paid tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and we celebrated the beautiful gifts of freedom and peace.”
On Tuesday, Grade 6 students at Cambridge Christian School, performed a play written and directed by their teacher, Annette Regnerus. As in years past, the annual production involved the entire Grade 6 class, and told three historic stories—each one focusing on a family impacted by war. In one of the stories, a man paints vehicles in camouflage for the Dutch Resistance and prays continually to God for protection while in hiding afterwards. In another, a soldier who fought in Italy for the Canadian Armed Forces ends up singing “Silent Night” with German soldiers from the other side of the battlefield. In the last, shortest segment of the play, the power of prayer strengthens three soldiers from the same family during the First, Second and Korean Wars.
The idea for the annual Grade 6 Remembrance Day play began about seven years ago, when a Korean girl in Regnerus’ class spoke about her grandfather’s relocation to Seoul as a young adult. Shortly after leaving North Korea, the border closed behind him, separating him from his family. Somehow, his wife and daughter managed to escape North Korea. Since hearing that story, it’s been obvious to Regnerus that students in her class are connected to a fascinating web of family histories. Over the years, she’s been able to share many of these stories on stage, as a way of bringing the LHCS community together during Remembrance Day.
Offstage, students at other OACS schools found creative ways to ponder the impact of war. On Monday, fifty students at Rhema Christian School took time to draw over 10, 000 stars. It was a symbolic act inspired by Anneke Brandenhorst, a teacher from Calvin Christian High School in Tolerance, Minnesota. Brandenhorst spoke to Rhema students about her Six Million Stars project—an initiative that has already compelled students at her school to draw over one million stars. By April, the Minnesota Christian school hopes to have drawn six million stars, each one representing a Jew who lost his or her life in the Holocaust.
Students at Rhema were inspired by the goal of transferring an incomprehensibly large number into something visual, and are eager to participate in Brandenhorst’s idea.
“It’s pretty overwhelming to see even just one poster paper with 2500 stars on it— to think that each of those stars represents a life that was taken,” says Joel Slofstra, Principal at Rhema Christian School. He says that the project is particularly meaningful for students after studying Lois Lowry’s novel, Number the Stars, in their classrooms. Lowry’s work of historical fiction tells the story of a Jewish family who must escape from Nazi occupied Copenhagen during the Second World War, because of the Holocaust.
May November 11 continue to help our schools remember the pain of war and the value of peace, one person at a time.
Teachers, what sort of activities or experiences left an impression with your students this Remembrance Day? Did this article spark any new ideas for Remembrance Day next year? We encourage you to share those ideas with members of the eCurriculum’s Remembrance Day group!