KHS Trench Warfare

In a classroom that seemed to transform into a time machine, Mrs. Lorilyn Thompson’s US History students recently embarked on a unique adventure into the past. Their mission? To step into the muddy boots of World War I soldiers and experience trench warfare firsthand.

Students had previously studied trench warfare and World War I in class times leading up to this experience. This immersive activity aimed to help students get a glimpse into the challenging life of soldiers during the Great War by composing heartfelt letters home telling of their experiences.

The classroom was transformed into makeshift trenches with the Allies on one side and the Central Powers on the other. As students entered the room, they were given 3 blank sheets of paper and one sheet with the word SAFE printed on it. Students were asked to write 3 separate scenarios which could have occurred during trench warfare based on what they had previously learned in class. Students then wadded all 4 papers into balls which served as their ammunition.

Upon Mrs. Thompson’s command of “over the top,” lights went out, artillery fire resounded from the class television, red LED lights glowed, & students began throwing the paper wads at their “enemies” on the other side of the barricades. Occasionally, students would venture into “No Man’s Land,” the area between the trenches, to recover ammunition or stage attacks. When Mrs. Thompson called “cease fire,” students then opened one paper wad to see what had befallen them during battle. Then, they used their MacBooks to compose the continuing letter home.

Skirmishes continued for a length of time then students were asked to finalize their letters before presenting them aloud to their classmates.

In the letters home, students placed themselves in the shoes of a WWI soldier. Many of them expressed their feelings of fear, loneliness, and longing for home. They described the constant hunger, pain, smells, and even camaraderie among their fellow soldiers.

During the activity, one student commented that she felt sorry for the families at home that had to receive such letters during a real war. It was obvious, with this comment, that students were truly beginning to understand the horrors of this war and the emotional toll it took on soldiers. Students gained a newfound appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who served during World War I.

As each class concluded, students emerged from the “trenches,” unharmed by the paper wads but with a deeper understanding of history and a greater respect for the soldiers of the past. The letters they wrote home served not only as a graded cross-curricular assignment but also as a heartfelt tribute to the brave men and women who endured the hardships of World War I, reminding us all of the importance of remembering and learning from our history.