Education column: Internet hosts holiday-themed educational opportunities

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy: Clovis Municipal Schools

With kids out of school for the holidays, homes are most likely a bit more lively than usual.

In case you’re looking for some educational support that’s fun and holiday-oriented, here are some Internet some to try for diversion:

• http://www.allfreecrafts.com/christmas/index.shtml — over 150 free homemade Christmas craft projects, with easy ideas to use with kids.

• http://christmaszing.com/ — with lots of Christmas ideas for all, including kids, games, gifts, recipes, music, and Santa.

http://www.allthingschristmas.com/ — just what it says; includes info on traditions, carols, stories, games, gifts, and cards.

• http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/christmas/ — more about Christmas, for teachers and parents, including printable Christmas coloring pages and worksheets; stocking stuffer ideas, and Christmas crafts.

• http://www.theteachersguide.com/ChristmasThemes.htm — if you really want to focus on learning, there are Christmas lesson plans and ideas; science lessons about snow, Christmas writing prompts.

Lots of wonderful Christmas stories abound, but my favorite is a true story. Abbreviated here, I’d encourage anyone to look up this tale and read some of the accounts written by actual soldiers from both sides who wrote letters home about this strange, spontaneous truce.

It was the winter of 1914, during World War I, on the battlefields of Flanders, that something very unusual occurred between the Germans who were in fierce battle with British and French soldiers, across from each other in cramped, man-made trenches.

Christmas Eve arrived, and during a lull in the fighting, German soldiers began putting up small Christmas trees sent by family members from home along their trench walls lit with candles and singing “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night). English soldiers responded in kind and offered their own Christmas songs. Choruses and harmonies grew on both sides, and some Germans who had worked in England before the war, therefore having some command of broken English, proposed a Christmas truce and were accepted.

Placards were held up on the German side: “You no fight, we no fight” and British signs showing “Merry Christmas” were held aloft in response.

Both sides slowly began to emerge from their trenches and come forward; hands were offered tentatively and shaken, gifts were exchanged – bits of cake, postcards, newspapers, tobacco.

In several instances, soldiers brought out soccer balls, and both sides began to play on the battlefield. Unbelievably, a spontaneous Christmas Day truce had occurred, with these stories recorded in letters home from soldiers on both sides.

The tale was made famous when recorded by Professor Stanley Wientraub, historian, who shared this special story in his book, “Silent Night.”

The truce had to end, sadly. Some of the generals were very displeased with the truce that had occurred and commanded their troops to continue shooting at each other. It didn’t happen for several days, apparently, and only after a great deal of wasted ammunition had been shot at stars and other distant objects.

Eventually, however, the war resumed in the Flanders field.

Weintraub shared, “…for a few precious moments there was peace on earth…because the focus was on Christmas…there’s something about Christmas that changes people.”

Merry Christmas.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org