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Anzac Day in the early years

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While Easter occupies many early childhood educators’ thoughts and programs at present, this year Anzac* Day is less than a week after Good Friday. Will your service be commemorating both events? Neither? One but not the other?

Let us know in the comments or on CELA’s social media accounts. In the meantime we’ve put together this inspiration for you around Anzac Day, with a list of quality resources and a great story about collaboration between veterans, early childhood education services, and soldiers currently deployed overseas.

*Note: we follow the style suggested by the Department of Veterans Affairs, using ANZAC when referring to soldiers and Anzac for most other purposes.

Anzac Day as education

Is Anzac Day something very young children can understand? Is it a valuable part of belonging, being, and becoming Australian?

Many early learning services will commemorate Anzac Day in some way this year, even though it falls in the short week after Easter. They might send adult and child representatives to a memorial service, laying a wreath. Or they might read picture books and tell stories about Australian soldiers and their service, or about the effect of war on families and children.

Educators we spoke with all agreed they marked Anzac Day in some way – but very sensitively around young children.

“We have two little girls whose dad is in the Navy, and while we’ve always acknowledged Anzac Day this makes it even more important to us to respect the day together,” Sharon, a director from Sydney, told us.

“Sometimes you have to put your personal feelings on war aside because it is a national event and children will be exposed to it no matter what.

“I guess our job is to respect the past but teach empathy and compassion and when they are older they can look carefully at history with their own eyes.”

Carla, an early childhood teacher from Canberra, is married to an active serviceman and brings a personal perspective as well:

“I definitely believe preschool aged children should celebrate Anzac day,” she says.

“I’ve got two main reasons. Firstly, it’s a part of our history and culture and an important national day, and secondly, we need to respect the current and past serving members of our defence force who sacrifice so much to ensure our protection and freedom.

“As a parent of two young children whose dad is a serving member and often away for deployments, I find it’s really important for them and their classmates to understand why he does what he does, and why he can’t be there for so many special moments.”

Books on Anzac Day

War is not an easy topic for any of us to understand, let alone children who are not at school yet. But how to set the context of service and sacrifice without some explanation of the terrible times that brought those attributes to the nation’s attention?

There are many beautiful, and sensitive, children’s books suitable for under-fives. Here are some titles that educators suggested to Amplify. Do you have others you can recommend?

My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day, Catriona Hoy, Hachette Books.

Introduces very young children to ANZAC Day and why it holds such a place in our culture.  The story is narrated by a girl who wakes early to attend dawn service, where her grandfather is marching.

Why are they marching, Daddy?, Di Burke, Anzac Day Commemoration Committee

An Anzac Day picture book for very young children, this story features the questions and answers between a boy and his father during an Anzac Day parade. the reason behind it and his father’s gentle explanation is simple and easy for young readers to follow.

ANZAC Ted, Belinda Landsberry Exisle Publishing

A rhyming tale of the original ANZAC soldiers that gives an overview of the war and the soldiers who served in it.

Anzac Day activities

Memorial visit

There’s nothing like a good reason to explore your local area, and most Australian children’s services will be within walking distance of one form of memorial or another. Take a look at this ‘challenge’ designed for Foundation (Early Stage 1) students in school, but adaptable to preschool years.

http://www.wecommemorate.nsw.edu.au/c_ES1S1.html

You might use the tips in this article for Getting out the gate to arrange an outing to your nearest memorial plaque, cenotaph, or remembrance wall. It doesn’t have to focus on WW1 soldiers to get into the Anzac spirit.

Grandparents’ story time

Not all grandparents know a lot about Anzac Day, but most grandparents have some good ‘olden days’ stories and could be asked to share what Anzac Day meant to them when they were children. Issue an invitation and see what happens!

Quality Area 6 collaborations

Another way to include children in the broader commemoration of Anzac Day is to follow the guidance in QA 6 of the National Quality Standard, and form a collaborative partnership in your community. Some early years services have partnerships with Returned Services Leagues (RSL) Clubs or similar veterans’ support organisations, and follow a program each year that connects children with active troops.

One such example was brought to our attention by Brad Copelin a former career soldier and Afghanistan veteran. Since leaving the army Brad has actively advocated for veterans’ welfare. He is an Ambassador for RSL DefenceCare, a charity that helps veterans and their families in times of crisis.

Brad is also a father, and while his daughter was attending the southern Sydney service T4K, he began reading stories to the children in the lead up to Anzac Day.

“For the last three years the Engadine RSL sub-Branch has sent care packages to Australian troops deployed overseas on operations,” Brad says.

“Each time we have been very well supported by our local community, which has included early learning services, schools and other community groups – it’s great that early learning has always supported the project.”

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The partnership difference

Brad says there are more than 2500 Australian troops currently deployed on nine separate operations overseas, in both combat and non-combat roles.

“When you’re deployed, you often wonder if anyone knows where you are and what you are doing,” he says.

“That’s why these packs have a huge effect on morale.

“The letters and art work are always displayed on walls and notice boards. I can personally attest to the effect it has on morale.”

(see our picture gallery above of soldiers in Kabul in 2017 receiving their gifts)

This year, more than 800 packages are being sent. If you want to get involved now, or in future years, email engadinesb@rslnsw.org.au and register your interest.

The care packages use an Australia Post BX2 box, and must weigh less than 2kg to qualify for the special free postage offer.

As for the contents, Australian food that can be shared is best, and popular options include:

  • Tim Tams
  • Chips and lollies
  • Anzac (and other) biscuits
  • chewing gum
  • Easter eggs
  • tubes of Vegemite
  • coffee/tea bags.

Brad says:

“The involvement of ELC gives a tangible connection between the children, the current generation of soldiers and the ANZAC legacy. It can also be mapped to EYLF,  learning outcomes and meets NQS requirements set out by ACECQA.”

Online resources

Lastly, if you’re looking for resources there are plenty of educational sites relating to Anzac Day, although fewer with specific early years material.

The Anzac Day Commemoration Committee (Queensland) has some ECE related information on its site here:

https://anzacday.org.au/part-1-australia-and-new-zealand-the-anzac-connection

The Australian War Memorial, as we covered previously has excellent all-ages resources about remembrance days.

https://www.awm.gov.au/learn/schools/resources/a-very-special-day

The War Memorial also hosts resources to help you incorporate indigenous perspectives in your Anzac Day programs and activities

https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/indigenous

And the Department of Veterans Affairs has an ‘Anzac Portal’ for educators that is useful for images, fact-checking, and as a place from which you may adapt programs for younger children.

https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/education/activities

This portal also includes a focus on Australian indigenous soldiers

https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/australia-and-second-world-war/resources/all-australian-homefront-19391945-0

What resources do you use? Tell us your story in the comments below!

CELA WRITERS

Bec Lloyd is the founder and managing director of Bec & Call Communication, providing professional writing, editing and strategy services to the school and early childhood education sector since 2014. In 2018 she launched UnYucky mindset and menus for happier family mealtimes. Formerly the communications lead at ACECQA and BOS (now NESA), Bec is a journo and mother of three who produces Amplify for us at Community Early Learning Australia.

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