The intent of “Honoring Service, Achievements, and Sacrifice: Virtual Field Trip to the Meuse-Argonne Battlefield” is to inspire an understanding and appreciation for both the landscape of the Meuse-Argonne region and the Americans who fought there. Through the use of primary documents, images, and video, students were introduced to the area and the ruins that remain today.
The students who tested this lesson were either juniors or seniors in high school and were in an AP World History class. This is a web-based lesson that asks students to move through various stops in the region. Accompanying the web presentation is a handout, which was printed and copied for the students. This lesson could be done in a computer lab, or with individual devices. Conveniently, it could also be done individually at home should a student be absent. For the sake of testing the lesson, we went through the screens together and conversations were encouraged at each of the stops.
Seeing the ruins of the German bunkers and tunnels was a highlight of the lesson. Students were intrigued by the fact they lived in these facilities for years and the amenities that were available such as stoves, beds, and wine. The other highlight was the link to ABMC’s medal-of-honor winners’ website. The students appreciated reading about the service and sacrifice of real people. However, there was minimal interaction as an activity-based lesson. In spite of the 3-D videos, it was essentially lecture and response.
If I were to do this lesson again, I would front-load the students with more information on the war from a military perspective as to why this region was so significant to both the Germans and Allied forces. The significance of the landscape would also need to be discussed ahead of time as the students were at a loss to understand what they were seeing in the videos and pictures and why it was important. The questions on the handout could be refined to suit the level of student engaged in the activity. High School AP students were looking for more direction and relevance and less repetition. The human element came up in conversations as to the experiences of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict in that time and space. What would it be like to live in a tunnel in winter? How often did bombardments occur? What were the Allies doing while the Germans were in the tunnel? Why didn’t they build trenches? What happened to the people in the villages? What did the women do who are now in the cemetery? Investigating answers to these questions could be an extension activity with student based research.