Spanish American War: History and Interesting Facts for Kids
Do you remember learning about the Spanish American War? Over the last 244 years, the United States has had an active military history.
While there have been many victories in the fight for justice and democracy throughout the world, they have not come without a cost. Sadly, hundreds of thousands of soldiers have been prisoners of war (POWs) or missing in action (MIA). To honor them and their courageous service to the United States of America, we celebrate National POW/MIA Recognition Day in September every year.
Just like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, it is important to teach your children or students about the incredible sacrifices of POW and MIA soldiers. One fun way to do this—especially if you’re a Spanish teacher or looking to improve your kid’s Spanish fluency—is to learn about the Spanish-American War.
A Summary of the Spanish-American War
About 100 years after the United States became independent, our southern neighbor, Cuba, was fighting a revolution against Spain. By this point, the vast majority of Spain’s territories had won independence, and the only four still under colonial rule were Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
While the U.S. was not necessarily looking to get involved in the dispute, citizens urged the government to get involved when they heard horrible rumors about how the Spanish were treating the Cubans. The “news” came from yellow journalism, or lies and exaggerations about the situation. Because the people insisted on helping the Cubans, the U.S. sent a navy vessel to Cuba called the USS Maine to protect American interests on the island.
However, the ship sank and the U.S. blamed the Spanish. President McKinley then pushed for Cuban independence, and Spain retaliated by declaring war on the United States on April 24, 1898. Even though Spain is a much smaller nation than the U.S., they were still adamant about fighting to protect their last few colonies.
They needed to protect both territories because U.S. soldiers were deployed to both Cuba and the Philippines. Following in Cuba’s footsteps, the Philippines also wanted freedom from colonial rule.
After less than eight months, the war was over. Spain lost all four colonies in the war, and the Spanish empire was officially over. The United States gained control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and Cuba, and they bought the Philippines. While this was a short war, it is still important to remember on National POW/MIA Recognition Day because of the 80 soldiers who were POW or MIA.
Interesting Facts about the Spanish-American War
Talking about wars and sacrifices can be a heavy topic for children. To give it a lighter twist and make sure your students stay engaged, present them with some interesting facts. Each point is written in both English and Spanish so you can take full advantage of this teaching opportunity!
- The USS Maine sank because of an internal fire, not because of the Spanish.
El barco USS Maine se hundió por un incendio interno, no por los españoles.
- Nevertheless, a combination of the loss of the ship, yellow journalism, and mistreatment of the Cubans led the US to intervene.
Sin embargo, una combinación de la pérdida del barco, periodismo amarillo, y el maltrato de los cubanos llevó a los Estados Unidos a intervenir.
- Spain declared war first on April 24, 1898.
España declaró la guerra primero en el 24 de abril del 1898.
- The United States declared war on April 25, 1898.
Los Estados Unidos declaró la guerra en el 25 de abril del 1898.
- Theodore Roosevelt, who would later become the 32nd president of the United States, fought in the Spanish-American war.
Theodore Roosevelt, quien después se convirtió en el presidente número 32 de los Estados Unidos, luchó en la guerra Hispano-Estadounidense.
- He led a group called the Rough Riders to invade Cuba.
Él dirigió un grupo llamado los Jinetes Bruscos para invadir Cuba.
- The majority of the Rough Riders did not ride on horses because they could not take that many horses on the ships.
La mayoría de los Jinetes Bruscos no montaron caballos porque no pudieron llevar tantos caballos en los barcos.
- Sadly, 379 soldiers died in combat.
Lamentablemente, 379 soldados se murieron en el combate.
- Almost 10 times as many soldiers died from diseases like yellow fever.
Casi 10 veces más soldados se murieron por enfermedades como la fiebre amarilla.
- 5,083 soldiers died out of combat from things like disease.
5,083 soldados se murieron fuera del combate por cosas como la enfermedad.
- There were 72 soldiers MIA and eight POWs.
Hubo 72 soldados desaparecidos en combate y ocho prisioneros de guerra.
- When U.S. soldiers arrived on Guam, the residents did not know there was a war occurring.
Cuando los soldados estadounidenses llegaron a Guam, los residentes no sabían que estaba ocurriendo una guerra.
- The Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898.
El Tratado de París fue firmado el 10 de diciembre en el 1898.
- The United States bought the Philippines for $20 million.
Los Estados Unidos compró las Filipinas por 20 millones de dólares.
- Spain gave Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States.
España dio Puerto Rico y Guam a los Estados Unidos.
- Cuba was granted its independence, but U.S. troops ruled the area for three years.
Cuba fue concedido su independencia, pero soldados estadounidenses gobernaron el área por tres años.
Spanish Vocabulary to Teach Your Students
If your children or students aren’t quite ready to decipher complete Spanish sentences, start with j key words instead. These are a great way to celebrate National POW/MIA Recognition Day or to study the Spanish-American War.
|Spanish-American War||La guerra Hispano-estadounidense||gair-rah ee-spahn-oh-eh-stah-do-oon-ee-dain-say|
|United States||Los Estados Unidos||eh-stah-dohs oo-nee-dohs|
|POW||El prisionero de guerra||pree-syohn-air-oh day gair-rah|
|MIA||Desaparecido en combate||days-ah-pahr-ay-see-doh ain cohm-bah-tay|
|Treaty of Paris||El Tratado de París||trah-tah-doh day pahr-ees|
Activities for National POW/MIA Recognition Day
The concept of war and soldiers who never came home can be a difficult topic to bring up with your kids or students. However, it’s important to raise awareness about the sacrifices that have been made for our country and the incredible selflessness of our soldiers. The trick is to teach the reality of what has happened to thousands of soldiers in an engaging and age-appropriate way.
The following activities can be used for the Spanish-American War or any other conflict you would like to teach.
1. Visit a Memorial
If there is a memorial near you, take the kids to see it. Looking at the names of the fallen is sobering and will help kids understand the reality of war rather than look at it as an abstract concept. Take flowers or a flag to leave at the memorial, or have your students write a thank you letter for the soldiers’ sacrifice.
2. Explore a Museum
When talking about the Spanish-American War, or others like the Revolutionary War, it can be hard to completely understand what happened since it was so long ago. Museums bring these events to life and show what uniforms the soldiers wore and how they fought the battles. This is another wonderful option for a hands-on learning experience about the wars the United States has been involved in.
3. Read a Book
There are numerous books that talk about wars in a kid-friendly way. They often take the viewpoint of the kids waiting for their parents to return home, which is a relatable feeling for children. Read the books together, or let them read it alone, and talk about what they learned and how they felt while reading it. Ask them how they would feel if they were in that situation and start a conversation about families of soldiers currently deployed.
4. Visual Representation
If you have an artistic learner, explain the events of the Spanish-American War (or any other) and have them create a drawing or storybook about what they heard. This will reinforce their comprehension and spark their imagination as they recreate the events.
5. Create an Interactive Timeline
For a larger group of students, get them all involved in a team project of making an interactive timeline. This can be handmade or done on the computer, but the important thing is that they include all the important dates of the war (or wars!) and visual aids.
Add a Spanish Twist
How can you integrate Spanish into your National POW/MIA Recognition Day lessons?
If you go to a memorial, ask your students to look for Hispanic names to recognize how many Latino soldiers have sacrificed for this country. Their thank you letter can even be written in Spanish!
For any activity you decide to do, you can ask for a summary written in Spanish or just use a few keywords in Spanish while teaching the topic. If you decide to read some books, order them in Spanish and English to compare the languages and learn about the war in both languages.
Whatever activity you choose to teach the importance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, be sure to impart the great respect and thankfulness for everything our soldiers do for the country. ¡Da gracias a los soldados por su gran sacrificio!
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