Students explore Civil War, honoring veterans at the Van Wezel

Students explore Civil War, honoring veterans at the Van Wezel

Posted on January 31, 2014 by The Patterson Foundation

As part of the Legacy of Valor campaign honoring veterans in Southwest Florida, the Van Wezel is proud to present Four Score and Seven Years Ago, a civil war musical recommended for students grades 3-8 on Monday, Feb. 3 from 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. This musical explores what it means to be a good soldier, and uses lines from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to highlight the importance of remembering those who have served and sacrificed for our country.

To encourage students to explore this topic, the Van Wezel hosted a speech contest asking students to share the importance of honoring our military, especially those buried at the Sarasota National Cemetery. We worked with a local Sarasota teacher to develop a study packet, hosted a special training open to teachers and home-school parents, and offered add-on options for speech writers such as Skype sessions with veterans and in classroom workshops. Two winning speeches have been selected that will be shared from the Van Wezel stage on the day of the performance as part of a special opening ceremony. Winning speeches came from St. Martha’s School and Pine View School. Each of these speeches will be read from the stage at either the 10 a.m. or 11:45 a.m. performances.

Those that did not have the opportunity to participate in writing a speech will be asked to consider the themes presented in the winning students’ speeches and will be encouraged to respond to what they witness at the event. These students will also be eligible to write their own speeches next season, when the speech contest is offered again.

Engaging students with cultural events in this manner is a great example of what can come from our EdExplore initiative. EdExplore was created to extend learning beyond the classroom and build connections between cultural treasures in our community and the treasured talent of our students.

What can we learn from the students who have written speeches? That our veterans are heroes, or as one student puts it – “knights” -- whose sacrifices come in many forms whether it is being away from their families, putting their own goals on hold, or even sacrifice their lives for our freedom. Many students formatted their speeches as a dedication speech (for the Sarasota National Cemetery) as President Lincoln did in his famous Gettysburg Address.

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