Field Simulation Provides Deeper Link to WWI Trench Experience

Dave Downer
For the past two weeks, 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. For the first time in four years, the classes got to use the CDS property on the other side of the railroad tracks which had been off-limits due to reconstruction. The fields provide a wonderful space to construct trenches and problem-solve on rough terrain.
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 sandbags 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 hardtack (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 were profound.
Mr. Downer, Ms. Moonan and Mr. De Sanctis'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.
Thank you to Ms. Wellnhofer, Mr. Young and Mr. Neil Anderson for assisting us in another successful trench building exercise.

Land Acknowledgment

CDS wishes to recognize and acknowledge the land on which the school operates. For thousands of years, these have been the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We also recognize the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee peoples who also shared this land.  CDS respects the relationship with these lands and recognizes that our connection can be strengthened by our continued relationship with all First Nations, by acknowledging our shared responsibility to respect and care for these lands and waters for future generations.

School Information

13415 Dufferin Street King, Ontario L7B 1K5 
(905) 833-1220

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.