Veteran Appreciation: Participating in Democracy

The purpose of the unit is to encourage students to appreciate our democratic institutions and to recognize the commitment made by our veterans to establish and maintain them.

Created by Gary R. O’Dwyer

Posted October 26, 2012

Lesson Overview

The purpose of the unit is to encourage students to appreciate our democratic institutions and to recognize the commitment made by our veterans to establish and maintain them.

Time Required

3 to 4, 75 minute periods

Historical Thinking Concept(s)

This lesson plan uses the following historical thinking concepts: use primary source evidence, identify continuity and change, take historical perspectives and understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations.

Learning Outcomes

Student will:

  • Appreciate Canada’s democratic institutions and recognize the commitment made by our veterans to establish and maintain them.

Background Information

This unit provides an opportunity for students to conduct primary research, encouraging their writing and interviewing skills. Students are tasked with researching and writing about individuals who served in the First World War. 

The Lesson Activity


Students will be briefed on the period of history related to their interviewee’s experience. They will also review appropriate interviewing techniques for conducting oral histories.


These activities allow for collaborative / co-operative and individual learning opportunities. The student completes a structured interview in which they record the responses of the interviewee following the proper protocol mandated by their school. The responses garnered from the interviews can be shared with the rest of the class. 


Students will demonstrate their learning through participation in the interview process, group discussion / interaction and culminating activities including reflective writing. They could make presentations based on their interviewee’s experiences (debriefing the interviews in a classroom setting). Perhaps they could also research a nursing sister or soldier who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during the First World War by accessing the Lest We Forget: Cenotaph Research Project.

Activity #1

Read the story Reflections on Remembrance Day, a grade 10 student’s written assignment from 1967 (Appendix A), and answer the questions.

  • Explain the historical significance of Vimy Ridge and Ypres.
  • Why do you think the First World War veteran chose his grandson as the person to whom to tell his story?
  • What impact do you think this had on the young person? Make a list of the emotions that are/could be evoked.
  • How significant is November 11th to the student writer?

Activity #2

Conduct an interview with a veteran or someone who lived through a wartime experience. After the interview, consider both the young person’s story and the interview. Respond to the questions below.

  • How difficult was it for each person to tell his/her story?
  • What impact do you think war has had on each person’s life?
  • With what impressions has each story left you?

Responses to the questions and discussion are the key to evaluation here.

Activity #3

Obtain a list of deceased veterans from a local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. Divide the class into groups so that each has a similar number of names with which to work. Then, each group is responsible for preparing the following (Please see the link to Lest We Forget: Cenotaph Research in materials/resources):

  • A poster listing the names assigned to their group
  • A poem or a reading relevant to the theme
  • A religious reading of a non-denominational nature
  • A biography of each veteran (if available)
  • A visit and presentation at the cenotaph

The quality of the work and the group co-operation are the key to evaluation here.


Appendix A 

Veterans Affairs Canada website

War and the Canadian Experience learning modules

Lest We Forget: Cenotaph Research

Extension Activity 

This is an optional activity where students are given an opportunity to express their appreciation and privilege of living in a democracy. In an election year, students will work for one of the political parties and keep a log of their activities. In a municipal election, students will organize and host an “all candidates night” and then work for a candidate of their choice. Students will conduct election polling in order to examine people’s opinions and voting intentions. The results are correlated and released to the media. Each student may be asked to work on Election Day. The log/journal is the key evaluation tool here.

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