By Susan Riddell
When a teacher sets out to work with students on civic-minded service learning projects, it’s not surprising for both the students and teacher to come away from those efforts feeling really good about their accomplishments.
That is definitely the way Jason Bryant sees it.
Bryant, a social studies teacher at King Middle School (Mercer County), recently helped students spearhead a fundraising effort that will help build the Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort.
Bryant and his students became involved in the effort after Principal Terry Gordon read a newspaper article about a local agency donating $5,000 to the memorial effort. Gordon shared the story with Bryant, who already was considering a Veteran’s Day-type fundraising project for his students to work on.
“I didn’t know which group to use until I spoke with him about the need of the Kentucky National Guard Memorial,” Bryant said. “Working on this project has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my teaching career.”
Bryant’s students sold T-shirts and raised an additional $5,000 for the memorial. Now, King Middle is taking the next step in its project by encouraging other Kentucky schools to join in on the fundraising. More than a half-million dollars is still needed to build the memorial. So Bryant and Gordon coordinated efforts with the Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund to create the “Pennies for Honor.”
Schools will be asked to collect loose change and donate it to the memorial fund between April 28 and May 2. Schools or districts that collect $100 or more will be recognized on a paver as a supporter of the Kentucky National Guard Memorial. The pavers, brick-like pieces of concrete commonly used as exterior flooring, will be installed next to the memorial.
Bryant said he’s getting positive feedback from other schools and districts that are going to set up local efforts. He also made sure when his own students were raising money that he connected learning to the public service venture.
He included economic and civics lessons into the effort, and said all students wrote essays that were entered in the Patriots Pen Essay Contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
“This project hits on every civic related strand that is included in our (Kentucky Core Academic) Standards (KCAS),” Bryant said. “We feel that this is a real world project our students can actively participate in and make a positive difference in their community.
I think this has been a humbling project for students when they understand the sacrifices our citizen soldiers have made for us over the years and that the Kentucky National Guard Memorial is short of funds to complete the project to honor them,” Bryant added. “Participating in this fundraiser has allowed students to further understand economic decisions and how their fundraising efforts can help the financial situation of the memorial that will honor our fallen guardsmen.”
Kentucky Department of Education social studies consultant Jennifer Fraker said that schools wanting to collect donations for the memorial can use any number of standards-based lessons to connect to the project.
Some examples from Fraker all relate to KCAS 2.14 – Government and Civics; 2.17 – Cultures and Societies; and 2.20 – Historical Perspectives including:
- Who’s monumental in Kentucky? A historical study on the “who is who” of Kentucky monuments, as well as their historical significance.
- Is freedom free? An exploration of historical figures, or the U.S. Armed Forces, in their journeys to achieve freedom and/or equality.
- What if we united? A history or civics approach to studying what did or can happen when everyday citizens unite.
- How do we let people know? A civic study on how everyday citizens can create public awareness.
Additionally, Fraker noted, teachers can find meaningful lessons and assessments connected to social studies, civics, economics and writing in Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS).
“Service-based projects such as these are not only essential in our social studies classes, but they are a key part of the civic life aspect of the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards for which we should strive,” Fraker said. “By providing students with hands-on opportunities to participate in service-based learning projects, Kentucky educators are creating engaged students while allowing students time to practice being informed and active young citizens.”
Jason LeMay, board secretary with the Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund said that once the memorial is completed, it will function as a resource of history-based learning and should serve as an ideal field trip option.
“We hope to eventually have teacher-friendly background materials available for use in the classroom before classes come to the memorial as well as information useful during their visit,” LeMay said.
LeMay said that will include historical information about Daniel Boone; the history of the National Guard; other Kentucky military history; and proper U.S. flag etiquette.
“It will illustrate service both in Kentucky and around the world,” LeMay said. “There will be teaching opportunities about individuals who served in the Kentucky guard and perished in the line of duty from almost every county of Kentucky. These men and women were performing not only wartime missions around the world but protecting the lives and property of citizens across Kentucky in state active-duty missions as well as training for those missions.”