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Remembering the Forgotten War


This lesson invites students to think about the way in which we memorialize war, in particular, the Korean War. Starting with the concept of a war memorial, students analyze a series of Korean War memorials, and interpret the materials used, and fundamental messages encoded within those memorials. Students will also in groups, design their own memorial based on their choice of a significant person, place, or event related to the Korean War.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to

  • interpret the design and meaning of memorials and monuments;
  • investigate the different ways in which Canadians have sought to remember Canada’s role in the Korean War, and the Veterans involved in this conflict;
  • design a war memorial that seeks to communicate meaning about a Canadian person, place or event related to the Korean War.

Target Audience

This activity is aimed at youth aged 12 to 18 years.

Required Class Resources

Sequence of Activities and Anticipated Time Frame

Background (10 minutes)

Begin the lesson by discussing the purpose that monuments serve for societies. If students are reluctant to answer, suggest to them that monuments can educate people about history and commemorate events that a community doesn’t want forgotten.

Eventually, you should introduce the idea that monuments can be used to shape a community’s understanding of events, or can be used to promote a particular interpretation of an event. You may want to discuss a monument in your local area, or perhaps a nationally known monument, such as the National War Memorial in Ottawa, to illustrate this idea.

Discuss with your students that structures such as memorials, monuments, and war cemeteries are reminders of remembrance, designed to help us remember the sacrifices and achievements of those who served.

Memorials and/or monuments can be:

  • a sign of remembrance, preserving the memory of a person or thing;
  • a holiday, intended to celebrate or honour the memory of a person or event;
  • a physical structure such as a building, pillar, stone or statue erected to honour and commemorate persons or events;
  • a place of historic interest or natural beauty set aside and maintained by the government as a public property;
  • any object can be considered a war memorial provided its inscription, or the purpose behind its creation is linked to the remembrance of a certain person or group that served, to a certain war or conflict, or to all wars and conflicts. It might be temporary or permanent, it might be functional (such as a school designated in memory of a war or person), or could be a plaque, book, monument or roll of honour.

Step 1 - Becoming Experts: Reading the Surface and Finding Deeper Meaning (20 minutes)

During this expert group activity, equally divide students into six groups:

  1. Canadian Korean War Memorial Garden
  2. Commonwealth Memorial (Pusan) at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery
  3. Monument to Canadian Fallen and 2003 Poster
  4. Korea Veterans National Wall of Remembrance
  5. Statue at the Museum of the Regiments
  6. Books of Remembrance

Print 5 copies of each of the Remembrance Monuments handouts. Each of the groups will receive copies of their handouts about their memorial for each person in their group, (or, if they have mobile devices or laptops, they can see their handout online) and copies of the worksheet Finding Deeper Meanings to fill in about their memorial (1 of each for each student in the group).

Students in each group will number themselves off: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). The number they have, will determine the group they will be in for the second step of this activity.

In this first step, each person in the group will become an “expert” about the Korean War memorial assigned to the group.

Allow the groups time to read about their memorial and examine the photographs and description of each of the memorials.

As a group, the students will discuss the memorial and its meaning while filling out the Finding Deeper Meanings Worksheet.

If they have mobile devices, or access to a computer, laptop or Netbook in their class, students may do an on-line search about their memorial as well, seeking further information and meaning.

Step 2 - Share the Knowledge! Spread the Word! (20 minutes)

After the students have reviewed and studied their memorial, they are ready to teach other students about it.

The students in the class will now go to their new groups. Those who numbered themselves in the first step of this activity as #1 will go to the Group One group, #2 will go to the Group Two, etc.

When they meet with their new group, they should each have with them, the handout (including picture of their memorial), and their worksheet, summarizing their findings.

In a roundtable fashion, each student will spend one or two minutes presenting the monument, where it is, what it’s made of, what it symbolizes, etc. They can use their worksheet to guide the discussion, and the handout to show the others in the group what the memorial looks like. In addition, they will participate as listeners in learning what knowledge others have gained about their memorials.

Step 3 - Designing a Korean War Memorial (30 minutes)

The concluding activity requires students in their groups, or individually, to consolidate their learning by designing a war memorial to communicate a core message. Their memorial should be based on a significant person, place or event related to the Korean War.

Before designing their monument they should discuss the following questions. They can use the Designing a Memorial Worksheet to guide their discussion:

  • Identify what they liked about the monuments their peers presented and why. Were there certain symbols that they liked? Did they like the size? The location?
  • Identify any elements about the monuments presented that they didn’t like, or felt didn’t contribute to the meaning of the monument.
  • Discuss what they would like the purpose and the message of their public monument to be. Will there be words?
  • How will the monument they design help Canadians view the sacrifices and achievements of our Veterans in the Korean War? What will it tell us about the Canadians in Korea or the United Nation's view of the war and Canada’s participation?
  • Ask them to consider what kinds of societies produce these monuments? What kinds of governments? What kinds of values do they have?
  • A memorial could tell a larger political story (i.e. When the Veterans first came home, Canadians did not understand the Korean War... the Veterans were “forgotten”, but now we remember them).
  • Ask them to consider which materials they would use.
  • They need not limit their studies to statues and plaques. Art, and even people’s stories and writings might fit the definition of a war memorial.
  • Ask them to consider what title they would give their monument.

Once your students have determined how they wish their memorial to look and what it’s purpose will be, they can begin representing it, whether on paper or perhaps on the computer. They could pencil sketch it, paint it, etc. It can be an artistic or digital rendering of their choice.

When they have all completed their work, ask each group to present their findings and their monument to the class, as well as why they made their choices. Their artistic renderings, along with the photographed handouts of Korean War monuments and memorials can be displayed around the classroom as visual reminders.

Worksheet - Finding Deeper Meanings

PDF Version 210 KB
  • My Korean War Memorial is: _____________________
  • Are symbols used and if so what’s the meaning?
  • What words are on it?
  • Is it natural beauty? Is it functional? Is it for observing?
  • What type or memorial is it? (a book, statue, monument, building, etc.)
  • Who or what does it commemorate? Does it memorialize victory or sacrifice? Leaders, loss, civilians?
  • What do you think is the monument’s core message? What message does it convey?
  • Where is it located?
  • Who designed it / built it? (architect, sculptor, etc.)
  • How old is the memorial?
  • What will it be made of? What materials were used? (ie. Rock, stone, bronze)

Worksheet - Designing a Memorial

PDF Version 158 KB
  • Our Korean War Memorial is named: _____________________
  • Are symbols used and if so what’s the meaning?
  • Are there any words are on it?
  • Is it natural beauty? Is it functional? Is it for observing?
  • What type or memorial is it? (a book, statue, monument, building, etc.)
  • Who or what does it commemorate? Does it memorialize victory or sacrifice? Leaders, loss, civilians?
  • What will be the monument’s core message?
  • Where is it located?
  • Will you need builders, architects or sculptors?
  • What will it be made of? What materials were used? (ie. Rock, stone, bronze)
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