Project Tin – Commemorating Our WWI Experience

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - By: David McCarthy

Since midterm the students in the history portion of Social Studies 11 have been working on a special project to commemorate the centenary of World War 1. In that great conflict, the muddy fields and trenches were strewn not only with the fallen but with their precious possessions within “tins” of all shapes and sizes, the containers of all manner of foods, tobacco and everyday household products. Students created replicas in the art studios, decorating them with labels from the period and aging them with a series of coats to achieve a rusting effect. Journals, diaries and letters were crafted from the viewpoints of soldiers, nurses and family members with each student adopting a character, either real or fictional, then weaving a story that was ultimately the basis of a presentation to their classmates. Through drama and writing workshops, they immersed themselves in their characters and made a powerful connection to the physical and mental horrors of battlefields such as Passchendaele, Ypres and the Somme.

Presentations took many forms as the teachers encouraged their classes to consider writing a dramatic scene, produce a video or simply read their letters as a way of illustrating the human cost of war. Some complemented their presentations with original artwork, music and poetry. Others created slideshows and photomontages to illustrate their stories. All were helped by the interdisciplinary approach and the availability of Art, English and Drama teachers to assist in giving advice and suggestions. The plan is to capture the presentations on film and to create an exhibition of students’ work in an art gallery format in the third term. While still covering the curriculum, teachers were able to integrate this project-based learning into their lessons with some additional time being made available on a couple of Saturday mornings. It has been inspiring to see the highly creative and poignant work that has already come to fruition with some students being able to research their own family history and come up with artifacts and paperwork from their parents and grandparents. The project was envisioned and initiated by Mr. Douglas Manson Blair who volunteered countless hours to help organize and encourage 75 students towards something special and highly memorable. We will let you know when the “tins” go on display and invite you to come and see the results of what has been a tremendous learning experience.

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