FORT WALTON BEACH — Local civics courses will be spiced up with real-life flavor this coming school year thanks to a new program being adopted in Okaloosa County.
The Medal of Honor Character Development Program will be used as part of the regular curriculum in all 11 middle schools in the school district, said Kaye McKinley, deputy superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment.
The national program is designed for middle and high school students. It features videos of living Medal of Honor recipients talking about their lives, the battles that brought them the medal and the medal itself.
“It teaches citizenship, what makes a hero (and) patriotism,” McKinley said.
All Florida middle school students will be required to complete a civics course and then pass a standardized test before they can go to high school by the 2013-14 school year under the Next Generation of Sunshine State Standards adopted by the Florida State Board of Education in 2010.
The Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act calls for students to be taught on a variety of topics, from government origin to political theory to citizen responsibility.
When McKinley learned about the Medal of Honor program at a conference she attended, she knew it was a unique way to help students meet some of those benchmarks.
A video shown of a medal recipient was a powerful experience for McKinley and others who attended.
“To have that history captured forever is so critical so we can pass it on to the kids for the next generation,” McKinley said. “We need to reinstill those values in our students.”
After finding out that each classroom kit for the program would cost $250, McKinley asked local organizations to help purchase them.
The National Defense Industrial Association agreed to purchase the first 11 for all the middle schools. Tom Rice, a local restaurant owner and military supporter, agreed to buy five of them in honor of local Medal of Honor recipient and retired Air Force Col. Bud Day.
“I just thought that it would be something that would be very helpful to be taught,” Rice said.
The curriculum is primarily based on the short videos of the recipients and encourages students to research their lives and the battles they fought in.
Teachers who will use the program will take a one-hour online course to learn about the curriculum and the website designed specifically for educators before they bring it to the classrooms, McKinley said.
For now, the five additional kits purchased by Rice will be put into the schools with the highest enrollment, but McKinley said she hoped to have at least two kits in every school soon.
Okaloosa County is the first school district in Florida to adopt the program, McKinley said.