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WWI Event Showcases Unique Real-World Learning at ADHS
WWI Event Showcases Unique Real-World Learning at ADHS
Posted on 01/26/2024

January 26, 2024 (Athens, ON) - History students at Athens District High School (ADHS) have been captivated by their work to help identify fallen WWI soldiers, and this past term they brought the project to life for members of the community.

The ongoing Hill 70 Project is seeing students across the Upper Canada District School Board[SA1]  (UCDSB) work to identify fallen Canadian soldiers from the First World War Battle of Hill 70. The project was initiated after the remains of approximately 120 soldiers were found in Loos-en-Gohelle, France, during a construction project in the spring of 2022.

For a little over a year, students have been reviewing service records and attestation forms to pull out key information about these fallen soldiers that will be entered into a national database of soldier service files from Library and Archives Canada.

As one of the schools participating in this Real-World Learning project, ADHS has been busy learning about the War, the Battle of Hill 70, and immersing themselves in the tasks involved in identifying the fallen soldiers. The enthusiasm surrounding this meaningful work culminated in “A Journey Through Time,” an event held at the school where attendees could view student projects, chat with them about their work, and catch a glimpse of WWI artifacts and uniforms.

The lower level of the school held the true highlight of the evening, with one hallway having been completely transformed into a replica of a WWI trench. Complete with faux dirt walls, dark ceilings with integrated lighting, historical artifacts as props, and student reenactors in full regalia, the scene transported the viewer to that time and place in history in a way no textbook ever could. 

Under the direction of their History teacher Shannon Campbell, the students acted out various scenarios that soldiers would find themselves in during their time on the frontlines. Utilizing sound and lighting effects, as well as make-up and prosthetics, the team ran through drills, roll calls, and intense combat reenactments.

“It's really wonderful to immerse ourselves in this display of trench warfare and it really gives us the source of empathy that we need in history class,” said student Daphne Dixon about the activities.

“Usually people are looking in their textbooks and saying how boring history is. Our teacher gives us the urge to just go with history and be in the moment of what they were doing, what they were seeing and how it affected them.”

Campbell was proud of the enthusiasm her students showed through the Hill 70 project and the interactive installation at the school. “Upon completion, students were tasked to honour their soldier by creating biographies and creating original pieces. The creativity was impressive, with students creating everything from woodworking, to paintings, diaries, letters and even 3D printing. The passion for this project extended past this, with students being actively involved in participating in simulations and reenactments, even in period costume, and creating interactive activities.”

ADHS Principal Brent Brown is pleased with the direction the project has taken and is thrilled with the energy the teacher and students have brought to their learning. “To see the students become so involved and passionate about a history project is inspiring. It’s a great example of how a real-world learning approach can be applied to a subject with amazing results. It’s sparked creativity, empathy, and excitement for everyone involved.”

“I found the hill 70 project very hands on, which I really like. For me, learning with primary source information and having to figure it out myself without there being a true right answer was very fun and it made it more memorable,” said history student and reenactor Owen Miles.

Since the event, the students have visited with the Hill 70 Team at the War Museum in Ottawa, and although the course is complete the students are planning on attending Hill 70 conferences to share their classroom experience with others.

“With the success of “A Journey Through Time” we have been working closely with the Hill 70 Team to develop an interactive and Real-World Learning based senior history program at ADHS,” said Campbell. “That way, the students can continue their work and have the opportunity to discover more local history.”

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