Under a cloudy sky on a chilly Monday morning, about 100 EMSB elementary students filtered through the National Field of Honour in Pointe-Claire to learn about Canada’s war history.
“It makes me think of my great-grandpa who went to the war,” said 10-year-old Jakob Deland of Edward Murphy Elementary.
Jakob admitted he doesn’t know much about Canada’s war history. But as he planted large, handmade paper poppies onto veterans’ gravestones, he thought about his great-grandfather and the many Canadians who lost their lives in battle.
“It makes me feel sad inside for the people that protected us and couldn’t be with their families,” he said.
After planting thousands of paper poppies, the children from Edward Murphy Elementary and General Vanier Elementary participated in an early Remembrance Day ceremony. The No Stone Left Alone organization helped co-ordinate the visit.
READ MORE: No Stone Left Alone honours Canada’s fallen
“It’s really to reconnect the concept of commemoration with the newer generation so it carries on in the future,” said No Stone Left Alone volunteer Arianne Deschenes.
A choir from General Vanier elementary sang a few hymns during the short ceremony, including Amazing Grace.
Several children read poems, including In Flanders Fields. After the readings, the children listened to a recording of the Last Post and then observed two minutes of silence.
For many of the kids from grades 4,5 and 6, this wasn’t just a field trip. It was a chance to really see — and learn — about war and its victims.
“They served us in war, and that war was important because if we lost, the Germans would have taken over a large part of Europe,” said 10-year-old Joey Di Sano.
“I really think it’s important for people to understand we are happy right now, but without the people who fought for us, we would not be happy and we should all honour them,” said Grade 6 student Cylia Marks.
For teachers, learning outside the classroom makes a big difference.
“How do you remember? The veterans aren’t around, there is a big disconnect because it’s over 100 years ago,” said EMSB spiritual adviser Rocco Speranza, referring to the First World War. “So coming out to cemeteries like this, it’s a way to connect, you read about it, but you see.”
And students say learning hands-on really helps the history lessons sink in.
“I think it’s special, because people sacrificed their lives so we are here today, and I think everyone should remember them and place a poppy on their stones because they did a lot for us to be here,” said 10-year-old student Charlie Rose.
And now a new generation knows why it’s so important never to forget.