OGDEN — Veterans at George E. Wahlen Veterans Home got some special visitors Tuesday.
About 130 elementary school students dropped by Tuesday morning. The children had prepared a special program of Christmas music. They also brought felt blankets with tassels they had cut and tied.
The group is part of Ogden School District’s Advanced Learning Academy, a program for gifted elementary students in first through sixth grade that is housed at Taylor Canyon Elementary.
After their performances, the children circulated throughout the room, carrying sheets with questions to learn about each veteran’s service.
They also brought story books that they proudly read to the veterans they met. With so many students, there was some jockeying required to get an audience.
Felix Casias, a resident of the home who was wearing a large smile and a fedora, said he thought the children’s visit was “great!”
“This is the future of America,” said Casias, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served for 22 years. “Beautiful kids. I love kids — love them all.”
The visit also prompted reflection for the children, especially those in the older grades.
Lyla Long, a fifth grader, said that she thought it was really fun to get to meet with veterans.
It reminded her of her uncle, who also served in the military. She says she wants to know more about what the experience was like for him.
“Next time I see him, I’m old enough to actually ask,” she said.
Ryan Kirkland, also a fifth grader, said he felt the same way about his grandpa.
Long and Kirkland agree that they’re more likely to ask about their family members’ service in the military after doing this project and getting the chance to talk with other veterans.
“I just think it’s really cool,” Kirkland said, describing the visit.
The students made the visit because they were looking for a way to serve the community, and their teachers wanted to facilitate the effort, said Vickie Eddie, a teacher in the ALA program.
“We’re going to give back,” Eddie said, talking about what the teachers hoped the children would learn from the project. “It’s not just about me.”
This is the first time ALA has visited George E. Whalen Veterans Home. For the last few years, some ALA students have visited Apple Village, an assisted living facility, to perform their annual Christmas musical, Eddie said.
In addition to giving back, projects like this benefit the students, Eddie said.
General education elementary classes only do music for half the year, she said, while ALA classes have music all year long. She thinks participating in music improves ALA students’ academic performance.
Performances like this “give them the freedom to do music,” Eddie said. “It gives them an outlet. It’s not just math, math, math — or testing, testing, testing.”