It seems every time we encounter History’s outreach chief (and chief historian) Dr Libby O’Connell, she’s thinking big.

Earlier this year she led a national teach-in about Lincoln for 500K students (Cfax 2/12/09). Now she’s urging History’s cable partners to contact local schools before the term ends to help make next fall’s Take A Veteran to School Day into a gargantuan affair.

“We want [cable ops] to contact them now, before they get busy in the fall,” O’Connell says. History hopes to eclipse last year’s program, which brought vets into a formidable 550 schools in all 50 states.

The program is “so easy…everyone has a relative who is a veteran,” says a History outreach exec, who explains that schools handle it according to their needs. At some schools the veterans visit just one classroom, she says. At other schools there’s an assembly of the entire student body. “Sometimes there’s music…it can get very emotional.” Some schools have specific requests based on particular educational tracks. One class was studying aviation, so its teacher requested pilots, the exec says.

For the program’s third year, History will add several components aimed at raising visibility. In addition to History’s curriculum for teachers K-12 whose classes host local vets, on Oct 28 the network will conduct a live Webcast touting the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project to students. The Project urges Americans—including students—to produce oral histories with veterans that can be archived by the Library. Guidelines from the Library can be found at History’s veterans.com site, which is the home base of Take a Veteran to School Day. “We’re hoping to have 5K schools” join the Webcast, O’Connell says.

Also in the mix will be a Q4 premiere on History called WWII in HD, which features color footage from the war. “A lot of people don’t realize there was color film back then,” O’Connell says.

Another facet is Thank a Veteran at Work, where History provides ways for companies to show appreciation to employees who are also veterans. “It can be as much as a coffee break with donuts or a more elaborate event,” O’Connell says.

And this fall, not only will History bring former soldiers to schools, it will bring some of the canines trained by VetDogs, whose charges assist wounded veterans. In fact, History has sponsored the training of a Yellow Lab pup named Jackson, who’s made quite an impression on History’s staff, including History chief Nancy Dubuc. “He came to our offices [in NY] after taking his first ride on the subway,” O’Connell says. It was more than a meet and greet, however. Since the dogs must accompany veterans in various surroundings, Jackson’s trip to History was considered part of his education.

With cable operators’ assistance, History’s bringing dogs and veterans to schools this fall will be an indelible part of many students’ education.         

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