Walking through Ross Bay Cemetery Thursday morning, there is a feeling of appreciation rather than solemnness.
Dozens of Grade 6 students from Central Middle School lined up to say personal thank yous to the soldiers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
In a show of gratitude more than 70 students, alongside soldiers from the Canadian Scottish Regiment, painted poppies on small stones and placed one on each of the roughly 500 gravestones of veterans buried in the cemetery.
No Stone Left Alone was one of two events in Greater Victoria last week. As part of a second event, students from Rockheights Middle School and members from CFB Esquimalt laid stones at God’s Acre Veterans Cemetery in Esquimalt.
The national program, which started in Alberta five years ago and expanded to B.C. last year, is an educational tool to teach students in grades 6, 7 and 8 about the sacrifices soldiers made in the world wars.
Retired Major-Gen. Cameron Ross and B.C. coordinator of No Stone Left Alone said it’s vital to pass on what veterans did for the country to younger generations.
“(We want them) to have a better understanding of what veterans did for their country and in so doing, have a sense of Canadian values,” Ross said. “There are new Canadians and families who are new to Canada. Many of them have left countries that have had difficulties. The values that we enjoy, freedom of the press and all that, and veterans are a part of that.”
Vice principal Carrie Schlappner said the event allows students to reflect more deeply about Remembrance Day and acknowledge the sacrifices of soldiers.
“This kind of first-hand experience really stays with kids and we thought this was a much deeper learning opportunity for them to really have what the sacrifices of soldiers has been resonate with them,” she said. “To actually see their graves and understand that they died for a cause is something that students benefit from.”
The event resonated with several of the 11-year-old students.
“It was a nice thing to do for all the soldiers that died for us,” Avery Mickelberry said. “I learned a lot about the different soldiers.”
Tessa Griffin said it was more personal than attending annual Remembrance Day assemblies in school.
This year, more than 4,000 students placed poppies on graves in 80 cemeteries around the country.