April 2021 brings new hope to the end of the global pandemic, but for most schools, this month is still strained with restrictions and safety protocols in the classrooms and at home. Life in the school or office buildings hasn’t returned to normal, so celebrating Purple Up across the country will need to be more intentional and a bit more creative. Below are few ideas from parents and educators who have found a way to celebrate their little heroes.
Background: Month of the Military Child designation began in 1986 by then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger and has been incorporated by schools, nonprofits and corporations ever since. Purple Up is a specific day or week set in April by individual school districts, states of agencies to celebrate military-connected children.
Celebrate on Social Media
“Our military kids face so many challenges every year, but this past year was especially difficult. PCS moves were harder because of the lack of in-person events. Deployments were more challenging because of extensions and restricted travel. Military kids often live far from family members, but this year they were cut off even more. Everyone talks about military kids being strong and resilient, but the reality is that they often feel unseen, and their sacrifices go unappreciated.”
Lizann Lightfoot from Seasoned Spouse wanted to shout from the rooftops her pride for her five military-connected kids. After surviving a hard move through a pandemic and starting a new school, she’s been overwhelmed at times by the strength and resilience her kids have shown. But with a pandemic continuing to nip at their heels, she’s decided to take her pride to social media and shout it out on the internet. Using the social media hashtag #milkidthx, she’s created a trending way parents, adults, teens and tweens can thank that military kid in their life.
The #milkidthx campaign is a chance to let military kids know they are not alone–they are seen, they are appreciated, and they are acknowledged! We want to thank them and encourage them to give them extra strength during this difficult year.”
From stating a simple thank you to posting pictures and letters, this social media hashtag is an easy pandemic-friendly way to celebrate military kids.
State it and Hang it: Outdoor Signs
San Onofre School at Camp Pendleton, Brittni Rudolph and staff celebrated a modified Purple Up with simple but meaningful gestures from staff and students:
“Our staff created Flipgrid messages. We have our usual spirit week. And we kicked off with Purple Up day, where we had Marines, music, balloons, banners, and every teacher wearing purple!”
But probably the most poignant and personal symbols were the banners every student made and hung outside on the school fence. Messages for miles. Everyone can read what’s in the heart of a military kid.
Dandelion’s Speak and Bloom Where They’re Planted
Christine Pyles at Hanscom Elementary School on Hanscom AFB, MA tackled the feelings of military-connected students this year with “Brave Enough to Bloom Where We are Planted.” Military kids were asked to write their feelings or statements on “dandelion” cards to placed on displayed in front of the school.
State Wide Virtual Spirit Week
Ohio’s MIC3 Commissioner, Pete LuPiba rallied his Purple Star Schools for a coordinated Spirit Week throughout the state. LuPiba started the Purple Star School program a few years ago and it’s taken off in other states. He sees a value of Purple Star Schools during COVID for those who have already identified their military-connected students.
“We in Ohio Purple Up every year…because we know the resilience and grit our military kids must achieve, harness to go from base to base, year after year. Purple Up, Ohio!”
According to the Military Child Education Coalition, “Purple Star School program is designed to help schools respond to the educational and social-emotional challenges military-connected children face during their transition to a new school and keep them on track to be college, workforce, and life-ready. Military-connected refers to children of service members on active duty, and in the National Guard and Reserves.” Learn more about Purple Star Schools MCEC.
Map, Books, and Connections
Amanda Trimillos, EdD, is an educator, published author and retired military spouse. She has a long list of ideas she incorporates in her school. This year, she had to get creative to celebrate Purple Up while teaching hybrid learning and quarantines.
“For educators, It’s been a year of being flexible and adapting and celebrating military kids in new ways that fit the new normal is part of the process. We focused on what we can do, not what we can’t. Military kids have shouldered so much this year, validating them is a big part of the Purple Up.”
Trimillos suggests a few simple, but impactful way to celebrate:
- Display world maps. One map can pinpoint where military-connected students have lived, which encourages conversation about military students’ backgrounds and experience. A second map can pinpoint where military family members are currently stationed or deployed, honoring their service within the student’s own school community.
- Write parent newsletters to highlight Month of the Military Child activities. Include facts about military families or military service. These facts can include insights specific to the school’s local military community.
- Create library reading challenges that focus on themes about military life. Books can include stories about military kid’s experiences, the military lifestyle, and being the new kid.
- Host virtual book clubs for faculty and staff. Consider a month-long Seasons of My Military Student book club to build support strategies all-year long. Invite the authors to join one of the virtual meetings.
- Add resources to the school website. Resources can include contact numbers for Military Family Life Counselors (MFLC), School Liaison Officers (SLO), and MIC3 state commissioners. Don’t forget to include an on-campus contact point for families.
Trimillos has a full list of ideas for virtual, hybrid and in-person celebrations at school and at home in her recent article on Seasons of My Military Student – Purple UP
At Home: Thank You Notes and Purple Desserts
If a military child isn’t attending school yet or maybe parents decided to homeschool during the uncertain year, celebrating them during April gives parents another reason to acknowledge the challenges they preserved this past year and give them a little extra love. As with most kids, love can be found through their stomachs. Surprise them with thank you notes from their military parents and Purple Up dessert bar at home. They will love the note from mom or dad while they munch on all things purple!