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Students fall in, trudge through trenches

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BerichtGeplaatst: 29 Jun 2010 18:01    Onderwerp: Students fall in, trudge through trenches Reageer met quote

Students fall in, trudge through trenches

Area students ditched their textbooks Friday and headed to the trenches to experience firsthand what life was like for Canadian soldiers in the First World War.

More than 500 London and area students from grades 7, 8 and 10 trudged through muddy trenches at Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

“They’re excited. They’re keen. They’re motivated. It really promotes learning outside the classroom,” said Jeff Brown, who helped organize the First World War education day.

The students moved through 11 stations, each focusing on a different aspect of a Canadian soldier’s life.

To make the experience as realistic as possible, Fanshawe Pioneer Village built a trench nearly two metres deep through a pretend battlefield.

At every station a volunteer from the Canadian Military Heritage Society, dressed head-to-toe in an authentic uniform, led students through a hands-on and educational activity.

Volunteer Bill Dineen helped demonstrate the realities of trench warfare.

With their shoes covered in mud and pretend barbed wire looping around their heads, students listened as Dineen described trench foot, an infection caused by the cold, wet and unsanitary conditions many soldiers endured in the trenches.

Dineen also talked about the constant threat German snipers were to Canadians.

A volunteer posing as a German sniper hid behind rubble across the imaginary battlefield to illustrate his point. The enemy soldier fired blanks from an authentic looking military rifle as students tried to locate and shoot him.

“The kids get far more from this than they ever would in the classroom,” said teacher Chris Mitchell, who brought his Grade 8 class all the way from London Road elementary school in Sarnia to participate.

The students agreed.

“It’s a good learning experience. It gives us the opportunity to see what life was really like for a soldier,” said Daniel Run, a Grade 10 student from St. Joseph’s secondary school in St. Thomas.

Students also took part in basic training and marching drills.

At the end of the day volunteers and students participated in a re-enactment of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

To make the battle as realistic as possible, Brown gave about 50 students different coloured poker chips. When he called out a colour, the students holding them fell to the ground as casualties.

This was done so students could experience what losing 10% of a division looks like, said Brown, because Canada lost 10% of a division at Vimy Ridge.

The day was organized by the Canadian Military Heritage Society and Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

Mitchell said he was impressed with the work organizers put into the event and hoped there would be more events.

“The teachers are amazed at the calibre of program we offer,” Brown said.

This is the second time the society and pioneer village hosted a First World War education day, and Brown said its continued success means there will be many more to come.

“It brings history to life.”

E-mail or follow AlexWatlfpress on Twitter.
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