Civics Comes to Life for Middle School Students: Part I – By Cindy Balistreri
Patriot Plaza was dedicated in 2014 and is located at one of nine national cemeteries in Florida. It is designed to serve as a place of peace and reflection for veterans’ families. The art installations tell stories that showcase the military experience which is consistent through time and yet changing. This art collection is unique to national cemeteries – it introduces documentary photography for the first time. What better way to honor the men and women who served than to present the timeless, yet specific, stories of service and sacrifice through the creative imaginations of great artists.
Students and teachers visited Patriot Plaza as part of a learning experience focused on stories of patriotism and inspiration; history came alive for 8th graders in required Civics classes. More than 40 charter buses brought students to visit Patriot Plaza as well as a scientific learning experience at Twin Lakes Park. The science learning experience was provided by the University of Florida and focused on the natural cycles that regulate and balance our biosphere. The Patterson Foundation provided the buses so that all schools could attend both free experiences regardless of their ability to pay for transportation. Sue Meckler, Director of Middle School Curriculum and Instruction for the Sarasota Schools, stated, “When I think about making learning visible to students, I often reference the amazing opportunity our Grade 8 students have to learn through experiential learning at Patriot Plaza and the UF Extension exploration. It is the best example of time well spent away from school to enhance learning and bring it to life for our students.”
It is the goal to continue to welcome students to Patriot Plaza in Grades 4-12 and to provide annual tours for 7th and 8th graders in Civics classes. Additionally, the public is invited to attend a public tour at Patriot Plaza every Tuesday at 10 am and to attend events on patriotic holidays throughout the year. Adults may schedule private tours for their organization or a small group at any time. All tours are free and may be booked through the Patriot Plaza Tour Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org 941-365-5118, x 301.
School tours involve the students in learning activities implemented by the teacher in the classroom. The experience at Patriot Plaza involves interacting personally with a Patriot Plaza Guide who is a veteran. Students begin to understand the meaning of the service that our military members have given to their country. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog with more information.