Honoring an Organization that Brings Relief to Our Nation

Acknowledge the importance of Red Cross Month in your classroom with these awareness activities.

By Cathy Neushul

Red cross

While the work of the American Red Cross is depended upon, it is not always fully understood. Until you need the organization’s services, you may not come into contact with volunteers, or know of its important role in our communities. Using a series of classroom activities, you can help students learn about this important organization while exploring American Red Cross Month.

American Red Cross History

When learning about the history of the American Red Cross, have your pupils start with a discussion of its beginnings in Europe. A businessman named Henry Dunant was traveling through Italy when he came upon a battlefield littered with soldiers fighting in the battle between Austria and the Franco-Sardinian Alliance. He organized members of the community to provide aid to the thousands of wounded soldiers. This was the beginning of the International Red Cross.

The American version of the Red Cross was born through a serendipitous trip made by a woman named Clara Barton. After the Civil War, Clara Barton traveled to Europe to recuperate from the strain of the humanitarian efforts she had made to care for wounded soldiers and identify the missing. She saw the work being done by the Red Cross in Europe, and sought to create this type of organization in America. While she was met with resistance at first (leaders did not believe that there could be another war on American soil) she was eventually successful. The American Red Cross started providing disaster relief by helping victims of the Great Fire of 1881 in Michigan.

While there are a myriad of ways to learn about the American Red Cross, one of the best ways is to read primary source materials, such as diary entries written by Clara Barton. It is a great way to make the history of this organization come alive.

American Red Cross in the News

The American Red Cross is often mentioned in the news. Most recently, students may have heard of volunteers’ efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. If you go to the American Red Cross website you can find information about relief efforts. Learners can read the true-life accounts of the people affected by this natural disaster.

Reading news articles is a great way to have students learn about the various ways the Red Cross helps the community. They can make a report detailing a particular example of a way the organization helped an individual and describe this person’s experience. Instead of being an impersonal organization, the Red Cross can become a group made up of real people doing things that make a difference.

American Red Cross Today

There are volunteers in every city waiting to respond during a natural disaster. You can get to know the volunteers in your community by having one come to speak in your classroom. It’s a great way to help your class understand that American Red Cross volunteers are just like anyone else. They don’t have to have any special back ground, all they have to have is a desire to help others.

American Red Cross Month can be a time to have your class learn about this important organization, and discuss the importance of volunteering in the community. Students need to know that they can make a difference, and that there are organizations out there set up to make volunteering easy.

American Red Cross Lessons:

Red Crescent/Red Cross

Chock full of resources, this lesson gives a brief overview of the history of the Red Cross. Also included are a list of links and books that learners can use to find out more information about this organization.

Clara Barton

What a wonderful resource for learning about the founder of the American Red Cross!  There are a number of resources and ideas for skits that can help students explore the topic.

Women’s History: Clara Barton

If you want to know about a person’s life, the best way to do that is go right to the source. This lesson has learners read primary documents written by Clara Barton. In this way everyone can see what she saw.

Red Cross

Have your class learn about volunteer organizations in the community, including the Red Cross. Learners identify the important role the Red Cross plays.