Field Simulation Creates Deeper Link to WWI Trench Experience

Dave Downer
The Grade 10 History classes undertook what has become an annual exercise at CDS, a two-day field experience to enhance their understanding of the efforts of soldiers in World War One. Because the site used previously is temporarily inaccessible this year, the Social Science department was able to locate a new site behind the tennis courts and the track. Mother Nature dumped copious amounts of rain this fall, creating saturated ground in and around the constructed trench. It added an unexpected air of reality to the simulation!
Day One of the exercise involved surveying the landscape and envisioning the logistics and problems of trench warfare. The students had to survey “no-man’s land” and determine how they could successfully attack the enemy trench that was nearly 100 metres away. Additionally, they had to fill sand bags to create a protective wall and they had to problem-solve how to communicate over long distances using the technology of 1915. The students also learned how to make an emergency field stretcher and carry a classmate to a first aid station. Following these activities, many of the students utilized the Flipgrid video app to record their ideas and impressions.
 
On Day Two, the students had the opportunity to “go over the top” to try to take their objective. With defending students operating fake armaments and the use of fake barbed wire obstacles, few of the student attackers made it to the trench. The students had a chance to be with the attack across No Man’s Land and to defend the trench. The class saw two different styles of attack to see how things changed over the course of the war.
 
While no simulation can ever duplicate the experience of war, the goal was to increase understanding and empathy for the soldiers who took part in the Great War. Students commented that they had no idea how hard it was to dig for 20 minutes, let alone months or years. They gained a greater appreciation of what it must have been like to be exposed to the elements and to deal with all the discomforts of living and fighting for extended periods of time. They even baked their own hard tack (bread) and tested it on their families. All agreed that this diet would wear thin pretty quickly. The connections they made to the class material and to their book, Generals Die in Bed, were profound.
 
Mr. Downer, Ms. Moonan and Mr. Young’s plan was to create a deeper link to the Canadian experience of World War One, especially right before the week of Remembrance. The plan was also to build a memorable activity for the students. Both goals were accomplished.
 
Story by Dave Downer
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13415 Dufferin Street King, Ontario L7B 1K5
(905) 833-1220
communications@cds.on.ca
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Founded in 1972, The Country Day School is a co-educational private school offering programs in JK-12 and located on 100 acres north of Toronto in King.