Researching a fallen hero offers a lens into the personal aspects of war; yet it is also a way to place the individual in the bigger scheme of the conflict. Last year I had the privilege of researching the life of Private First Class Clark Allen of Massachusetts in the Understanding Sacrifice program. Researching his training, his division, and its role in Holland and Germany, I discovered how the Silver Star that PFC Allen earned in Moerdijk, Holland directly impacted opening the port of Antwerp. To comprehend the details, I needed to acquire a deeper context. As a result, my knowledge of the war in Northern Europe is not only more vast, but also more meaningful.
Students learn best when their learning is authentic. My goal is to facilitate student engagement by helping them make the connections between then and now, between there and here, and between others and themselves. It is important that students come to realize that history has not already been determined or “figured out” just because someone else has already written about it. The Understanding Sacrifice program employs this same approach of hands-on inquiry and the takeaways translate seamlessly into effective lesson plans.