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2010 Annual Report: Congressional Medal of Honor
Congressional Medal of Honor
In his 19 years of teaching 8th grade U.S. history in Aurora, Colorado, Charlie Kardaleff has never seen anything like it. “The kids are riveted,” he said. “They can’t take their eyes off it!”
‘It’ happens to be a new curriculum that Kardaleff’s teaching in his school, Aurora West College Preparatory Academy. He’s teaching a unit on the Congressional Medal of Honor’s Character Development Program.
Many people might not be familiar with the Medal of Honor, but Kardaleff’s 30 students sure are. The Medal is the highest award for valor in combat that our nation can bestow, and Kardaleff’s students can probably name half a dozen of its recipients in rapid fire. Why are these kids so riveted by this special curriculum? Because central to its delivery is a video library of more than 100 Medal recipient Living History interviews, all captured in short 8-12 minute vignettes that are simply captivating.
“It doesn’t matter if I go into an honors class or a special education class or a regular student class. When you put the DVD in, kids are drawn to it,” said Heather Kensill, Medal of Honor Project Facilitator.
The curriculum is the product of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which, in 2008 set out to create a character development program for middle and high school students.
You may be wondering what a military war award and character development have in common, and the answer is: a lot. The living histories provide much more than firsthand accounts of America’s war heroes. They uniquely teach students about the Medal of Honor core values of courage, integrity, sacrifice, commitment, citizenship, and patriotism – values that help develop strong personal character.
In late 2010, the curriculum, which had received rave reviews in Pennsylvania, was brought to Colorado to Aurora Public Schools. The Daniels Fund helped support the implementation with a $40,000 grant for 15 schools to pilot the program. The character values the program embodies were ones that defined Bill Daniels’ life, and ones which he cared deeply about instilling in our youth.
In a recent focus group of Aurora teachers piloting the curriculum, enthusiastic and positive comments were shared, including, “kids are completely engaged in the topic and discussion;” “engagement is through the roof;” “the citizenship component has been big;” “meaningful discussions in class;” and “relevance.” One of the teachers even shared that his students asked him when they were going to do the unit again. “When’s the last time you did a lesson when a kid actually asked when are we going to do that again?” he said.
What do the kids have to say about it? Kardaleff’s students all say they’ve been extra focused on the unit for many reasons. One student commented that “I was so fascinated by these people that I was thinking about how much better life would be if I were as brave as they are.” Another commented that “I like learning about great people who risked their lives to save others.” Finally, another said “I enjoy listening and watching the stories of men that have helped and fought for this country.”
“I’ve been a pretty good military history teacher,” said Kardaleff. I can get kids hooked on stuff, but this takes it a step further. “It’s really good, good stuff, and I plan to keep using it.”