Combining Gratitude and History

Christmas is a fun time to make all kinds of crafts with elementary kids.  I like doing simple things – mainly because I’m not all that craft-sy. 😂 A quick and easy art idea is this cute Christmas tree that doubles as an ornament … perfect for someone like me! 

But as a Grade 2 teacher, I loved it when I could motivate kids with a piece of local history while teaching reading, writing and math outcomes. Discussing the Halifax Explosion is a great example of this.  

On December 6, 1917, Halifax was the scene of one of Canada’s largest disasters. The Halifax Explosion proved to be a catastrophic event that triggered kindness from around the world. The United States, particularly the citizens of Boston, showed tremendous compassion by delivering medical supplies and sending nurses and doctors to help Halifax citizens.  As a symbol of gratitude, Halifax sent them a Christmas tree the year following the explosion. It then became an annual tradition.

I loved using this historic example for two reasons: First, students were amazed by the facts (such as the explosion resulted in entire houses being moved off their foundations) and second, it was the perfect opportunity to teach kindness and gratitude to my students.

Here’s a resource that has over 20 different ideas to teach kids about gratitude. There’s nonfiction informational texts and writings about the Halifax Explosion and the Boston Christmas Tree, procedural writing activities, Christmas tree trivia and math. There's even a Gratitude Christmas Tree for your students to decorate!

Have fun teaching kids to be grateful!

Christmas Gratitude

As a kid, Christmas Day was probably the best day of the year. I don't recall being particularly excited about the decorations or all the baking my mom did (shortbreads galore, which are still a favorite!). What I do recall was spending hours going through the Sears Wish Book - a catalogue of toys and other Christmas related items. By the time December 25th actually rolled around, the catalogue was well worn and dog-eared. My brother and I were constantly changing our minds about which toy we wanted.

We couldn't wait to see what Santa would bring. But even better than the toy was the fact that when we went to bed on Christmas Eve, a tree would be delivered and decorated! I can't even begin to imagine how much work that was for my parents.  They would head to bed at 4 a.m. and within the hour my brother and I would be creeping down the hall to see if Santa had come.

I'm ever so grateful to have had these experiences as a kid growing up in the 1960's. And I'm even more grateful that I decided not to continue that tradition with my own kids. 😊

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to teach our kids about gratitude. It can be as simple as creating a supper time routine where each family member states one thing they were grateful for that day. Or you might want to try keeping a gratitude journal at home or as a class activity with elementary students.

You can download this FREE CHRISTMAS GRATITUDE activity.

However you chose to do it, find your reason to be grateful today. 🙏