By Flint Whitlock
We often hear that today’s “younger generation” cares nothing for the past, and that “history class” is just a synonym for “nap time.” So it’s refreshing to learn about some students who are excited and fully engaged in learning about World War II and honoring the veterans.
I received the following letter from Karen Steele, director of the Partnership for Community Schools in Malden, Massachusetts:
“Since September 2010, a dedicated group of 23 middle school students in Malden have been participating in My Generation: World War II Project. To be truthful, it was a little difficult getting 11- and 12-year-old students interested in something that happened more than 60 years ago. But they were lured by the idea of working on a video project and the possibility of traveling to Washington, D.C., at the end of the year.
The project was inspired by one of our teachers who attended a World War II Memorial dedication in Malden last June with her dad––a World War II veteran himself. She looked at the veterans who were there and realized the time to tell their story was now. Our after-school programs, that encourage expanded learning and enrichment opportunities, seemed the perfect place to tell their story.
As the year progressed, students became so devoted to the work they were doing that many of them also spent their nights and weekends learning about World War II. During the year the students not only learned about the war and the experiences of their hometown heroes, but they also learned interviewing techniques, listening skills, teamwork, and more about their community. By the end of the project, they had eight quality interviews with veterans––some veterans who had never talked about their war experiences to anyone else.
All along, our hope had been to bring some students to Washington, D.C., so they could present the interviews to the Library of Congress. On May 15 we traveled to Washington with six students. During our three-day whirlwind tour, the students presented their materials to the Library of Congress where their work will be forever archived, saw the World War II Memorial, toured Washington, and visited with Senators Scott Brown and John Kerry, and the office of Congressman Edward Markey.
The year culminated with a movie premiere on June 10. The final video was about 30 minutes long, and included not only the interviews but also the out-takes from the project, the research, and the visit to Washington, D.C. At the event we honored the veterans we interviewed, as well as all Malden veterans of all wars. Malden Mayor Richard C. Howard attended the event, along with Malden Supervisor Sid Smith.
We are so proud of our students, and would love for them to get the credit they deserve for all the work they have done. Too often we hear about students making bad choices during the after-school hours. But these students have made all the right choices and have a tangible product to show for it.”
Well said, Ms. Steele! Let me join all the others in saluting the students for a job well done!
PATTON MUSEUM MOVE UPDATE
Ed Miller, who wrote the feature about the Patton Museum at Fort Knox (see WWII Quarterly, Fall 2010), has provided the following update about the museum’s move to Fort Benning: “As you may know, virtually everything from the Patton Museum is now in storage at Benning––even the library. The staff [at Fort Knox] is dealing with an 85 percent+ rebuild with new exhibits on the history of Army leadership covering 1775-2000s. The Army needs to get the word out that it’s in transition and, while the Patton Gallery and some temporary exhibits are still open at Fort Knox, there is much more to come in the next few years. A set of interim exhibits is also in the works. The replacement museum will be exciting––but it will take time to get there.”