Kal Russell, principal at North Saanich Middle School, has been involved with school Remebrance Day ceremonies for 18 years now, first in Agassiz and later at Stelly’s and Sidney Elementary. Marking the occasion means dealing with death and sacrifice: heavy topics for an elementary school student. However, Russell said there is a way to make the ceremony impactful for every grade level, while also letting students shine.
At 9:45 on Friday morning, the day before Remembrance Day, there will be a dance performance and the band will play. There is a reading, the laying of a wreath, the Last Post, and a guest speaker from CFB Esquimalt. Two students will also go to the Veteran’s Memorial Lodge at Broadmead to read letters written by students to the veterans who live there.
“It’s a combination of being respectful and highlighting and remembering those who serve but it’s also an opportunity to highlight some of our kids in a respectful environment.”
In elementary school, kids participate by reading aloud, and as students get older, musical and dance elements are sometimes introduced, depending on how comfortable students feel.
Russell said the federal government provides resources for schools on how to present these difficult topics. At North Saanich Middle School, vice-principal David Mark will read a speech that is tailored to middle school kids that is based on federal resources.
“He reads it because it’s serious and important and we want the kids to get the message and know that piece is really important.”
Russell’s own grandfather served in World War II, and in the past he has shared with his students a letter sent to his grandfather from a family in the Netherlands. He stayed with them during the war.
“I’m always amazed at how respectful our kids are and what a great job they do.”