D-Day Heroes – Lesson Plan

Aim

To increase youth awareness of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War, remember the sacrifices and achievements made by Canadians and by brave animals, and provide youth with a basic knowledge and appreciation of the Victoria Cross and the Dickin Medal, the highest awards for bravery that Canadian and animals could receive during the Second World War, respectively.

Objectives

Youth will be expected to:

  • develop a basic understanding of the Canadian efforts in the Battle of Normandy;
  • develop a basic knowledge and appreciation of the Victoria Cross and the Dickin Medal;
  • learn about David Currie, from Saskatchewan, who was the only Canadian awarded the Victoria Cross during the Battle of Normandy,
  • develop an understanding of the animals who helped on Juno Beach and in the Battle of Normandy; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of those humans and their mascot friends who served and died.

Target audience

This activity is suitable for ages 5 to 8.

Sequence of events and anticipated time frame [40 minutes]

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Introduction discussion [10 minutes]
  • D-Day Heroes read aloud [10 minutes]
  • Victoria Cross connect the dots and Dickin Medal colouring activity [20 minutes]

Materials

Introductory discussion [10 minutes]

Before starting this activity, you may wish to read for your own information, Canada Remembers the Battle of Normandy historical sheet.

Have a brief discussion with your students about what makes a person a friend. Discuss sharing, playing together, helping, etc. Then shift the conversation to what they think a whole country could do to be a friend.

Provide the youth with a bit of an understanding about the Second World War. Talk about how the war began more than 75 years ago, well before their parents and even some grandparents were born! Look at a world map and locate France and England. See if they can spot their own province or territory on the world map, and then see if they can find France. Discuss how far away from each other these places are.

Mention that the Second World War started when some countries were “bullying” some other countries. In places like France, people and families lost their homes. Canada decided help stop  the bullying, and they sent thousands of soldiers to help.

Some of these brave people were fathers or young sons. It was probably hard for them to leave their families in Canada and go so far away to risk their lives. What would their families be feeling? What would the young men be feeling? Does any child in the class have a parent who has to travel far away for work? If so, how does it make them feel? Or how do they think it would make them feel?

The Canadian soldiers fought in many difficult battles in the Second World War, and one of them was the Battle of Normandy. Sometimes animal mascots, such as dogs, cats, and even bears, travelled with the soldiers. It was comforting to have a furry friend in times of war because it could remind soldiers of their homes far away.

D-Day Heroes read aloud [10 minutes]

Share with your students or read aloud the handout ”D-Day Heroes” to help students understand how Canadians served in the Battle of Normandy, and how animals bravely helped the soldiers.

Talk to your students about how some soldiers lost their lives at Juno Beach and in the Battle of Normandy. Ask them to think how the families back at home in Canada would have felt about having lost a father or a son. 

Ask them about their thoughts on what David Currie and the animals did. Discuss bravery and loyalty to soldier friends. 

On the Victoria Cross it says, “For Valour” and on the Dickin Medal it says “For Gallantry.” Discuss what these words mean.

War is dangerous and everybody had to overcome their fears to do their job.

Many Canadians received medals for their bravery during the war.

The highest decoration for bravery a Commonwealth service member could obtain in war was called the Victoria Cross. Only one was awarded to a Canadian for their actions during the Battle of Normandy.

Ask your students if they have witnessed a brave action in their school or community. Should the person receive a medal for that action? If they were to create a decoration for bravery in the school, what would they name it? How would they design their decoration for bravery at school?

Victoria Cross connect the dots and Dickin Medal colouring activity [20 minutes]

Provide the children with connect the dots activity sheets.

Then complete the Dickin Medal colouring sheet.

On the Victoria Cross it says “For Valour” and on the Dickin Medal it says “For Gallantry.” Discuss what these words mean.

Once completed, you may wish to display them on the wall in your school. You could also take a picture and share them on social media, tagging Veterans Affairs Canada in your posts on Facebook (@CanadaRemembers), Instagram (@veteransaffairscanada) and Twitter (@VeteransENG_CA).

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