BRANDON — When some local elementary schools observed Patriot Day on Sept. 11, it was more than just a half-hour ceremony of remembrance.
Kingswood and Nelson elementary schools dug deep into the day's meaning with students to help them understand it.
"We wanted to know what they already know about Patriot Day and from that we shared with them how our country came together and how we lost everyday people," said Pat McCants, assistant principal at Kingswood in Brandon.
Added kindergarten teacher Natasha Torrez: "It's about heroes, what the flag means and remembering the loved ones lost."
For elementary school students who are just grasping the significance of Sept. 11, teachers used age-appropriate lessons and integrated Patriot Day into their social studies program. Teresa Fallis, an exceptional-student education teacher for third through fifth grades at Kingswood, found a way to reach her students by using visual aids such as building blocks to represent the twin towers. That was followed by activities and discussion. Students said the Pledge of Allegiance while the flag was at half-staff and ended with an honor guard playing taps.
"There are many ways to be a patriot and serve your country and do community service," said Amber Craft, Kingswood's principal. Craft closed the ceremony with a school safety patrol initiation — a way of bringing an understanding of responsibility to others to the students' level.
"My grandson remembers his father going to New York with the National Guard and that he was gone for two weeks when 9/11 happened," said Karin Meyersa, grandmother of fifth-grade safety patrol member Sean Torrez. "We sat him down and talked to him and watched a movie on 9/11 with the family."
It's important for younger children to focus on the more positive aspects of Patriot Day too, said school psychologist Melissa Height.
At Nelson Elementary in Dover, four ribbons — red, white, blue and yellow — represented sacrifice, innocence, freedom and remembrance, said Terry Senhauser, a fourth-grade teacher who organized the school's Ribbons of Remembrance with the Durant High School Color Guard.
A fifth-grade class read the book September 12th, which was written by kids after 9/11.
"There really is a void in understanding," Senhauser said. "We try to answer all their questions and give them a good feeling about their community."