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The City Journals

Silver Mesa fifth-graders thank veterans during patriotic program

Dec 02, 2016 03:00PM ● By Julie Slama

Silver Mesa fifth-graders performed its 15th annual patriotic program for students, families and veterans. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Silver Mesa Elementary fifth-grader Keyan Olson was excited his grandfather was in the audience to hear his grade’s patriotic program on Veterans Day.

“It means a lot to me,” said Keyan, who is class representative on the school’s student council. “There are less and less veterans from when he served as an Air Force controller during Vietnam and in Japan. It’s important they know we are proud of them. I wish my great-grandfather was still alive so he could tell me about when he served.”

Keyan’s grandfather and others who served or are serving in the military were invited to stand and receive a red carnation while the fifth-graders sang “Proud to Be an American,” Keyan’s favorite song during the program.

“It says it all — how we’re proud to be Americans and what they’ve done for us,” he said.

The program, which teacher April Humphreys wrote about 15 years ago, is tweaked each year to fit the fifth-grade class. It has included a variety of performances from veterans’ stories to demonstrating Native American dance.

“The students saw a lot of adults crying (during the Nov. 10 dress rehearsal) and they made connections that patriotism ties into family, church, country,” she said. “Some students even said they were crying.”

In preparing for the program, and tying it into social studies, the students are learning about the Revolutionary War, Westward Expansion, Civil War, World War I and World War II and the U.S. Constitution. 

“We read stories to support what we’re learning, such as ‘Hold the Flag High,’ which talks about a black regiment of soldiers during the Civil War, and ‘Paul Revere’s Ride,’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,” Humphreys said.

The students also went to the state capitol for its 100th birthday and received a personal tour that included some of the capitol’s back rooms, escorted by state Representative LaVar Christensen.

“He talked to the students about the strong foundation of our constitution and how it has helped shape America. That is tied into our program,” she said.

Then, Humphreys and the fifth-grade team tie the songs into fifth-grade core curriculum on American history, such as the Bill of Rights rap that teaches students about the Bill of Rights and their forefathers’ beliefs, she said.

“We had some amazing discussions where students made connections from that song. They asked about gun control and learned because of the Bill of Rights, they have the right to bear arms. They can go to any church to worship they want and can speak what’s on their mind peacefully because of these rights,” she said.

Much of the songs were taught by both music teacher Stacy Haddock and teacher Mary Ann Deem, who also accompanied the students on piano. Among the songs the students sang were “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “The Pledge of Allegiance,” “Fifty Nifty United States,” “America the Beautiful,” and “God Bless America.”

“What’s More American?” was fifth-grader and student body president Sara Bryner’s favorite song.

“It’s just fun and we held props, some they already had for us, and some we came up with to match the song,” she said. “I had a picture of George Washington to hold, but we realized all the pictures of Washington were just on one side of the fifth grade so I traded. I ended up with Corn Flakes, which is funny since I don’t even like cereal.”

However, Sara knows it’s more than pointing out that football, ice cream, cereal and other things make up America.

“My veterans were my great-grandfathers and I wish they were alive so they could be here. I had one great-grandpa who served secret missions for the Coast Guard, another guarded a prisoner camp and another was an Air Force pilot. My great-grandpa told us shortly before he died that he got a letter from his buddy. One of the airplanes got shot down and his friend was piloting it. He’s the one who wrote my great-grandpa,” she said.

However, both Sara’s and Keyan’s favorite part of the program was the slide show at the end, which featured not only fifth-graders on the playground, but also pictures of students, staff and faculty with their veterans.

“It’s amazing the service they provided and how much they gave up for all of us,” Sara said, adding that the slideshow was coordinated by teacher Kevin Nelson, who spent hours on it.

“He may have spent more time on the program to get it just right than we did practicing the songs,” she said.

After a local Cub Scout troop led the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the program, there was a video clip of American entertainer the late Richard “Red” Skelton explaining the importance of the pledge.

Throughout the program, fifth-graders, who wore red, white and blue shirts, shared the messages of the ABC’s of America.

Humphreys thanked the audience, but also told the school children, “This is a wonderful time for a patriotic program and these kids truly believe what they are saying. You all are the hope — the hope of all America.”