What does freedom mean to Eagle County kids? | VailDaily.com
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What does freedom mean to Eagle County kids?

Matt Terrell
mterrell@vaildaily.com
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyElla Clemens' third grade class joins their school in the Pledge of Allegiance first thing in the morning before class starts Friday at Avon Elementary in Avon, Colorado.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Every morning at Avon Elementary in Avon, Colorado, members of the “Pride Patrol” take turns leading their classmates in the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom.

These kids are also the safety patrol, helping out the crossing guards on West Beaver Creek Boulevard, and they also take care of the United States and Colorado flags, running them up the flagpole before class starts.

“Every morning they check the governor’s Web site to see where the flag’s supposed to be ” halfway or all the way up,” said Principal Melisa Rewold-Thuon. “They learned a lot about it when Gerald Ford died.”

Educators see the importance of allowing the kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, which is required by Colorado law, but they see bigger, more universal lessons to be taught when it comes to patriotism.

As you see with the Pride Patrol, kids here are learning that the United States asks a lot of its citizens ” that it requires service, participation, appreciation of history, and, as they’ll see on Tuesday, our votes.

In Tracy Teetaert’s eighth grade class at Minturn Middle School, the students have been reenacting the long ocean voyages made by early American colonists.

Divided into teams, each a different colony, they carefully watch their food and money, mourn wrecked ships and dead children, keep travel diaries, land their fleets, pick some land and establish a colony. It’s like the Oregon Trail video game in the 1980s.

Hopefully, they’ll see what drove people away from their homes to come here, and what they were willing to sacrifice for a new life and freedom.

“The big picture for them is answering the big question: What does freedom mean for all Americans?” Teetaert said.

The kids are making the connections.

“We see what people in the old times understood freedom to be, and we can compare it to what we understand freedom to be today,” said Jeremy Pegram, an eighth grader at Minturn Middle School. “Today, freedom for us is about whether you can go to the movies at 10, back then, freedom was like, ‘I get to live today!’ We realize we take more for granted now.”

All across the school district, you’ll find teachers pushing their students to examine, at a fundamental level, what it means not only to be an American, but to be an engaged, participating citizen of the country.

You’ll find several schools holding their own elections this week, casting online votes for Barack Obama or John McCain.

Student council elections at Edwards Elementary coincide with the presidential elections. On Friday, fourth and fifth grade student council candidates will give speeches to the entire school, said principal Heidi Hanssen.

“I don’t think we’re directly teaching patriotism ” it’s more about community. Any activity where the whole school is involved is exciting. It’s a way to unite our community,” Hanssen said.

Students in Tom Gladitsch’s social studies class at Red Canyon High School are spending the entire trimester learning about the election process. Meanwhile, they’ve been encouraged, and many have signed up, to be election judges on Tuesday.

Students at Meadow Mountain Elementary will hold a “Read-A-Thon” that will raise money for UNICEF, among other service projects. Principal Kathy Cummings said her school is about building character, teaching compassion and showing kids what it means to be a good citizen.

You’ll see a lot of patriotism on something like Veteran’s Day, but the kids are learning to be good Americans everyday, she said.

“We’ve had kids go down to the river for the cleanup ” are things like that patriotic, I think it is,” Cummings said. “Patriotism for us is more of that global piece, learning how to help out and do our part.”

Students at Eagle Valley Middle School have a chance this year to give up a period of art or P.E. every day to tutor students at Eagle Valley Elementary next door. Guidance counselor Robin Santoro said she has about a dozen students interested.

“We’re teaching them they can be helpful to other people, both to younger people, and to teachers, that’s sometimes serving other people makes you feel good, but it’s helpful in our community,” Santoro said. “If there’s a need, lets try to fill it.”

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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