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Contact: Jennifer Zazo, (413) 734-8551
HOLYOKE, MA – Students from Birchland Park Middle School in East Longmeadow will visit the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke on Friday, May 16, 2014 for an official ceremony culminating a year-long project as a part of the National Park Service's Park for Every Classroom initiative. This place-based, service-learning program, led by the Springfield Armory National Historic Site in conjunction with Birchland Park Middle School, the Veterans Education Project (VEP), and the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, is the first of its kind in Western Massachusetts to provide students with immersion experiences in heritage, culture, history, geography, and community service.
The 10:00 a.m. visit to the Soldiers' Home this Friday, May 16 will honor both veterans and students alike. Letters written by a Birchland Park seventh grade team in appreciation of the veterans' military service will be presented as part of the ceremony. The event will take place during a "Community Day" program in the Home's Canteen recreation area and is part of a weeklong celebration of National Nursing Home Week.
The National Park Service initiative, Park for Ever Classroom (PEC), encourages education partnerships and community engagement. "The purpose of PEC is to build collaborations among National Park Service staff, local community and educational partners, and teachers to effectively engage students in place-based learning that promotes stewardship of parks and communities," said Jennifer Zazo, a Park Ranger for Interpretation and Education at the Springfield Armory NHS. In addition to helping students think critically about the past, recognize history as an ongoing process of discovery, and better understand the relevance of history and the national parks in students' lives, PEC creates "service learning" or community service opportunities for students to give back to their communities.
For the Springfield Armory PEC project, the National Historic Site and its partners provided a series of unique experiences that allowed students to learn more about the geographic concept of "place," the effects the Armory had on the growth of the city of Springfield, and a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and costs of war. PEC teacher, Harriet Kulig, also a Holyoke resident, has shared that her "Students have become better global citizens as a result of this project."
As a follow up to the field trip at Springfield Armory, Park Ranger Jennifer Zazo and Rob Wilson, the retired Executive Director from the Veterans Education Project (VEP ) in Amherst, arranged a middle school visit and presentation with Jim Munroe, a VEP speaker and Vietnam War veteran. Munroe's stories provided students with valuable lessons that effectively tied together the students' geography curriculum, their on-site field experiences, and first-hand accounts of a veteran of war.
"Local veteran volunteers give back to the community through the Veterans Education Project by sharing their stories of war and military service in local classrooms," said Rob Wilson of VEP."It's great to have the organization be part of a project that is educating students while giving back to the veterans."
John Paradis, Director of Outreach, Communications and Intergovernmental Relations at the Soldiers' Home expressed excitement amongst the recreation staff and "a sincere interest to expand on the collaboration in the future.
Editor's Advisory: Media are encouraged to be in place in the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke by 9:30 a.m. to conduct pre-event interviews with key participants.Interviews with students and veterans will be available upon the program's conclusion.
The Springfield Armory National Historic Site is the location of the nation's first armory (1794 – 1968) and was established by George Washington. The site includes historic grounds, buildings, and the world's largest historic American military firearms collection. The park is open daily from 9am – 5pm. There is ample parking and the building is wheelchair accessible. For further information and weather cancellation call (413) 734-8551 or check the website at www.nps.gov/spar or go to our www.facebook.com/sparnhs.