Sunday, July 26, 2015

World War 2 Unit Study: The Kids Interviewed a World War 2 Veteran

The kids and I took a very brief trip to Arkansas last week. The trip's purpose was to assist family, not to visit and sightsee, and so it wasn't the most fun for the kids. I had intended to take them to a brand-new water park in my hometown, but it rained every day. They longed to see their favorite aunt, but there was a death on their uncle's side of the family, and so she had to be with them and never got to take the kids for snow cones. We spent hours in a hospital waiting room, and more hours in a physical rehab center's room. We received the very sad news about the death of Will's chicks. On vacations, I tend to spoil the kids with new and exciting things to see and do every day, so this wasn't the type of trip that they're used to.

Nevertheless, family did what they could to make it fun for them, of course. Upon our arrival, my mother presented the children with a huge stack of coloring books, which kept them both--even Will!--quite happily entertained for much of the time. My aunt left a bag of dress-up clothes for Syd back in our bedroom--darn it, we forgot to bring those home with us! And on the way to Arkansas, we visited not the zoo, which we had intended (so. Much. RAIN!!!), but the St. Louis Science Center, which is always a huge hit:
Syd was like, "I don't get it," so I said, "Lift up your left leg"...
This sensory illusions exhibit was awesome, but super frustrating to visit with this kid, who likes to have the correct answer at all times, does NOT like to be "tricked," and insisted, at every single station (except that mirror one, which genuinely wowed her) that she was not fooled.
I love myself a good zoetrope!
Okay, THIS was super cool! We have seen catenary arch models to build at every single science center we have ever been to, but never before have we seen this horizontal, gridded version that allows you to really study the mathematics!
Cross-beams are very important. I want to swing back, later this summer, to an earthquake unit that we briefly hit a while ago, and one of the things that I want to emphasize in this unit is earthquake-proof construction.
If there's a fossil, this kid will find it.
The science behind the atomic bomb! We'll be coming back to this near the end of our World War 2 unit.
I would LOVE to have a windmill on our property.
Our local museum is a member of the ASTC Passport Program, which means that we can use its membership card to get free admission to tons of other museums all over the country, which we do a lot. Some other member museums do not act terribly happy to see us and our free admissions come in the door (Lowell Observatory, I'm looking at you!), but the St. Louis Science Center has always been notably welcoming. On this day, the membership clerk told me, "Today, you're OUR member!" It felt really good.
In Arkansas, the children were also able to complete the one assignment that I have been looking forward to the most in our World War 2 unit study. Seriously, I was more excited about this than I am about our trip to visit Pearl Harbor in October!

In Arkansas, the children interviewed an actual World War 2 veteran. This man stormed the beach in Anzio, Italy. He liberated Rome. He served with both Darby's Rangers and General Patton.

He's also the children's great-grandfather.

Although we haven't yet delved deeply into World War 2, the children have had an overview, so they had the context to prepare several questions each for Pappa. I videotaped the interview, because I knew that this was something that I, at least, was going to want to remember forever. We can also watch it again later as the things that Pappa mention in the video come up in our studies, giving me the ability to translate for the children, for it's an unfortunate fact that just as Pappa has a hard time understanding the children--he's hard of hearing, and they talk quickly and don't enunciate with care, and I suspect that the audio frequency of their voices is a little too high for him--the children have a hard time understanding Pappa--he speaks with a Southern dialect, something that they only hear from me when I'm upset, and he often doesn't wear his dentures, making his enunciation also challenging. Their sincere attempts at communication can quickly become farcical if I'm not there to help.

I do not expect you to watch all 16 minutes of the following interview, as it suffers from unsteady camera work at times, when I get too focused on the interview and forget that I'm holding it, and my loud translations for Pappa are uncomfortably close to the camera's microphone--sorry! You can skip through, however, as Pappa says some really interesting things, and the children manage to draw out of him some stories that I had never heard before, and, yes, he 100% tells the children details that are not at all appropriate for children. The answer to Syd's question about horses in the war? Yikes. And the answer to her question that wanted to know if Pappa ever rode in a tank? Well, you can hear my whispered "Oh, my God," just fine in the video:

I really wasn't sure how this interview would go. Pappa didn't always like talking about the war--I remember being rebuffed when I was Will's age and tried to ask him questions very similar to hers--but as he's grown old, he seems to have come to relish telling these stories. And now that we've done it, I cannot recommend this activity enough. If you have kids, and if they know someone who fought in a war, any war, have your kids interview that person. Give them a lesson on that war, let the kids come up with interview questions completely on their own, and then have the kids conduct their interview, and you tape it. They'll ask questions that you never would have thought to ask, and they'll be told details that you never would have been told.

And one day, that war that their interviewee fought in, well, everyone who fought in that war will have died, and their interview will be a valuable piece of remembrance of the war, and that soldiers's place in it. That soldier's experience will never be forgotten, thanks to your kids.

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