May 2007

The Cardboard Box

By Alan Haskvitz

Free resources at



It wasn’t a very big cardboard box; maybe a foot wide and nearly as deep, and it probably weighed less then five pounds. Still it has been sitting in the living room for sometime without anyone having the strength to move it.

You see, this small box contained all my dad’s belongings from 90 years of life. His wife had died about a year ago and he had never expected to outlive her. They had very few material goods to show for their years of work and 60 plus years of marriage. But it didn’t matter because they had each other and their three children and that was enough.

When his wife died my father moved into a room at his daughter’s home and spent some time with his sons. But something was missing and he decided to return to Minnesota and his roots and sisters. It was a sudden decision as had been his sale of the trailer home he and his wife had lived in for over 20 years. A home they dearly loved so much they had spent nearly all their money moving it to a safer park after repeatedly been victims of crime. Within a year in this new safe haven his wife, my mother, died a slow death from cancer.

Dad was now alone. He desperately wanted to fit into his children’s lives, but it was so difficult being nearly deaf and with his sight almost gone. The thing that he seemed to enjoy most was just being around them and feeling their presence.

In early March my brother called and asked me to keep my dad the day before my father’s flight to Minnesota. I welcomed the opportunity. I especially wanted to thank him for all the things that an honorable man gives a son; passion, patience, motivation, and direction.

I arrived early to pick-up my dad and opened the car’s trunk in anticipation of a lot of luggage. I was wrong. My dad only had a small-wheeled suitcase, a handful of records and tax statements, and the box.

We came home to a meal my wife had made especially for my father and we talked about nothing. When my teenage son asked him when he was planning to return to California my dad started to cry. It is very hard to watch a huge man sob. Dad’s eyes filled with tears at the thought of perhaps never seeing his children again. He loved them in his way.

We sat across the dinner table looking at one another. Two men who never really learned how to express their feelings sat eating silently. A son and a father who in over 50 years had never hugged or exchanged an expression of love sat staring at each other trying desperately to find the courage to speak. Silently, heads down, we ate, and the opportunity slipped away.

Small talk around the television and the sharing of a few photos ended the evening. Before going to bed he walked into the bedroom and brought out the box.

“I want you to have this,” he said handing me the cardboard container. I thanked him and placed it unopened on a table in the living room.

We were interrupted by my brother arriving for the trip to the airport. My dad refused my offer of help with his suitcase. He was a proud man who had never bowed to anything in his life except age. A man brought up in the tough Dakota Badlands who had to quit school in the fourth grade to help support his impoverished immigrant parents. Dad shut the car door, and after a wave from his rugged farmer’s hand, was whisked away into an uncertain future.

“Be careful, Dad. We’ll call you, dad. Thanks, ” I said, trying hard to stuff each familiar word with so much more meaning.

A lot was left unsaid when my father left. I stepped back into the house not knowing I was never to see him again.

I looked at the small dusty box sitting on the table knowing that it contained all the worldly possessions from my father’s nine decades of life. Inside there was a glue stick, scissors, three hats, two pairs of sunglasses, two broken radios, a bookend with his initial, a remote control, and my mother’s small jewelry case.

I closed the box. It was too heavy with memories to move.


Harry Haskvitz died in September of 2004. He was 92-years-old. The box remains in a place of honor in his son’s home.


Alan Haskvitz is a former Reacher’s Digest Hero in Education. You can find out more about him and free materials at his website.

This article is copyrighted.

Father’s Day Lesson Plans

By Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz

My Father

My story of what my father left me after 90 years of life.

Fun Father’s Day facts

Father’s Day Clip Art

History of Father’s Day

Primary Crafts and Cards

Fathers Day lessons for older students 

Father’s Day Poems

Craft Ideas

Pirate resources and lessons

National Motivation Speaker


Myths and legends

Story telling links

Large pirate link site


Pirate theme page

Lists web quests, coloring pages, and history of piracy

Integrated units of study and links

Literature based unit

Basic, but requires a variety of books to complete.

Large Link page

Widely varying quality.


Pirate weapons

Simplified history of piracy site

Caribbean Pirates

Facts and fiction.

Famous pirates

For more free educational resources go to

 National Oceans Week

By Alan Haskvitz, Reader’ Digest Hero in Education


With all the television programming on the importance of oceans it is a great theme to use when creating some new lessons in science, math, English, and social studies. Students are easily motivated by the speed and size of ocean dwellers as well as the impact the seas have on our environment. Here are some quality sites and lessons:


Marine organizations

Zoology links

Simple lesson plans

Not much research necessary, but a variety of interesting slants on the ocean theme.

Superior variety of lesson plans by grade level.

Spend a while here. Plenty of learning levels and ideas.

Integrated primary level plan

Integrated lesson plans for upper elementary

Web quests, lesson, and even lessons about lobsters

NOAA Lessons

From the government for grades 5 to 12 with search engine

From the Smithsonian

Search results for ocean including squid lessons,

Ocean Careers

Thematic units on the ocean

An excellent selection that includes a reading list.


Oceans for Life

Videos and lessons for older students


Read, Write, Think lesson on eels

Flag Day June 14th: Lessons and

Interesting facts

By National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz

For more free educational lessons and ideas go to

Flag Day and Patriotic lessons

Federal Resources

Veterans’ Department has Field Day materials

Brief lessons about Flag Day

World Flag Database

Coloring pages and songs for primary levels

Early American Flags and more

Flag facts

General Information about Flag Day

Titanic Lessons and Links and Resources for May 31 Anniversary

National Curriculum Expert

Fun resources including a mock trial, first hand accounts, technical questions, books, and lessons for most grade levels are posted here

There is also a worksheet, an artifact activity, and economics lessons.

End of Year Classroom Activities

Keep ‘em learning with end-of-the-year activities

Veteran teachers know well the difficulties of school’s final weeks. Students’ minds are on vacation, grades have been earned and recorded, the summer heat distracts, books must be collected, and supplies ordered. Adding to those problems is the fact many schools want you packed and ready to vacate your room for cleaning or moving. Plus, attending retirement parties and looking for summer employment create a high level of stress.

To ease this, Alan Haskvitz recommends the sites below for end-of-the- year activities. In addition, visit his selected employment sites for job opportunities oversees or around the United States.

Remembering closure is a learning experience, so consider having students organize their notes and review what they’ve learned in the form of a play or scrapbook. In addition, have them predict their future and place their prediction in a self-addressed envelope. Mail it to them a few years later. Some students may have moved, but many find the letters a great way to rekindle memories and motivate themselves.

Although some of the following ideas may be young for high school, they can be modified by adjusting the materials. For example, a high school English student could write a poem about their future in the style of an individual studied. A history student could write a fictional account of a future leader based on character traits of those studied. Even physical education classes could find the students developing futuristic dances for a planet with limited gravity. In other words, if students are motivated, the end of the year can be a large, organized and relaxed time.

Other ideas include:

Create a summer safety poster.

Make autograph books.

Write an ode to the classroom.

Write a letter to next year’s class.

Make a memory or scrapbook to use next year.

Create a words-of-wisdom poster for next year’s students.

Write a letter to next year’s teacher.

Have students use a large sheet of butcher paper or bulletin board paper to create a timeline listing what they learned this year.

Create a play that tells the story of the year.

Finally, make sure you use all that student energy to help you clean and prepare the classroom for next year.

Activities to keep students interested

End-of-year resources

Information for teachers

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