Understanding Sacrifice: A Lens for Studying World War II through Art, Science, Literature, and History

AHA Session
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media 3
Sunday, January 7, 2018: 12:30 PM-4:00 PM
Congressional Room A (Omni Shoreham, West Lobby)
Jennifer L. Rosenfeld, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
The session will begin at the meeting hotel, where participants will be introduced to the history, goals, and lessons learned during the Understanding Sacrifice project, including examples of teacher research and interdisciplinary lesson plans. The group will then take Metro to tour the National WWII Memorial with Dr. Hamner to experience the power of teaching with place firsthand, and to explore the concepts of war, memory, and memorialization. Those who tour the memorial should plan to return to the hotel by about 4 p.m.
Understanding Sacrifice: An Interdisciplinary Approach
Bryce Carpenter, US Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration
Carved in Stone: Teaching World War II through Monuments and Memorials
Christopher Heald Hamner, George Mason University
The Audience

Session Abstract

A Maryland high school student examines a copy of a medic’s handbook to learn about the advances and limitations in wartime medicine during World War II. In a Wyoming school, a student uses a two-liter bottle and a tub of water to simulate buoyancy in her middle school science class as an introduction to World War II submarine technology. In a South Carolina classroom, students work together to understand the symbolism found in American military cemeteries and then design their own version that represents their heroes today. And in a Texas English/Language Arts classroom, students explore war poetry to better understand the impact of the war through the voices of those who served and those they remember.

These are a few examples of the interdisciplinary lessons created through the program, Understanding Sacrifice, an 18 month-long teacher professional development program for middle and high school teachers sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and the Veteran Administration’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA). Working with the team from National History Day® and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, 18 teachers annually create free, interdisciplinary lessons to share with other educators. The goal is to bring ABMC and NCA resources into classrooms to help students better understand the service, experience, and sacrifice of American service members during World War II.

Each teacher chose one local American service member who made the ultimate sacrifice and is buried or memorialized at an ABMC or NCA cemetery in Europe, North Africa, or the Pacific. Teachers spent a year uncovering the life story of their fallen hero. Concurrently, teachers developed in-depth lesson plans utilizing their research that focused on one element of World War II. Using examples from the program, participants will be introduced to the research process the teachers followed to create their service member profiles and lesson plans.

Since immersive experiences create richer teaching materials, the group travelled to AMBC and NCA World War II sites to walk in the footsteps of history to see first-hand the places that influenced the outcome of the war. To help conference participants better understand this first-hand, participants will accompany Dr. Christopher Hamner, Associate Professor of Military History at George Mason University and Understanding Sacrifice’s Lead Historian, on a tour of the National World War II Memorial, to explore the concepts of war, memory and commemoration. This is the first site all teacher participants visit during their introduction to the program each fall.

This session will explore the history, goals, and outcomes of this partnership, with special focus on its interdisciplinary nature. The panelists represent the different organizations involved in the partnership and will address successes and lessons learned. Participants will leave the session with a better understanding of how this professional development program works, the history of America’s military cemeteries, the mission of the ABMC and NCA, as well as the interdisciplinary teaching resources available through the Understanding Sacrifice website.

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