'Poster Design' activity
If computer access is limited, a research presentation project could be tackled using a poster design activity. Have the youth create a poster of their own that highlights the achievements and sacrifices of Canadians in the Battle of Passchendaele and during the First World War as a whole. It could include historical elements of significant Canadian battles, personal elements of individual Canadians who served in the war, as well as remembrance elements to show why it is important to reflect on the sacrifices and achievements of those who served in the war.
'Write a War Telegram' activity
Back in the days of the First World War, the only way for people in Canada and those serving overseas to keep in touch was with letters and telegrams. Telegrams used Morse Code to encode the messages into a series of dots and dashes which were then sent by telegraph operators. Telegrams were expensive and people were charged by the word, so messages generally had to be short.
Have half of the youth in the group imagine they are soldiers who had fought at Passchendaele and were injured. Have them write a telegram home saying what they saw, how the battle was, how they got hurt, and how they feel about the war. Remember that telegrams had to be short! Have the other half of the participants imagine they are back on the home front, writing a telegram to a son, brother, father or husband who is fighting in Europe after having just read in the newspaper that Canadian soldiers are seeing heavy action in Passchendaele.
Once the messages are completed, have the youth convert their messages into Morse Code, using the supplied guide so they will know what combination of dots and dashes corresponds to each letter of the alphabet. Have each youth then trade his or her coded message with a youth who wrote a telegram from the opposite standpoint for its decoding. Then have the recipient create a response to the telegrams he or she has received, code it and send it back to the youth who wrote it!
'Create a Time Line' activity
Time lines offer a way of graphically representing complicated events that occur over a span of time. Have the youth create a time line of the Battle of Passchendaele on large pieces of paper. Entries could include when different phases of the battle began and ended, when different Canadian Victoria Crosses were earned, when relatives or men from your home community were injured or killed (check out the Canadian Virtual War Memorial for information on this). Alternatively, the youth could create a time line for the whole of the First World War.
Encourage youth to make effective use of colour in their time lines. Relevant pictures found on the Internet or other drawings may be inserted as well to illustrate the time line and make it more informative. Emphasize to youth the appropriate use of spacing in the chronology of their time lines, with events that took place closer together in time being separated by a smaller space than events that took place farther apart in time.
'Write a Play' or 'Make a Movie' activity
While war exacts a horrible toll on those who fight as well as on those caught in the fighting, the First World War did see great outflow of poetry and literature. The incredible stresses triggered an outpouring of creativity as those touched by the fighting struggled to capture their powerful feelings on paper. The same is true of people today who have reflected on what those who served experienced by recording their feelings in creative works like poems, books and plays.
Ask youth to create a play based on the experiences of Canadians who saw action at Passchendaele. It could feature the men in the trenches, the people on the home front back in Canada and the effects of war on them all. Encourage youth to go an extra step by writing a screenplay and using a video camera to create a short film on the subject.
'Those Who Served' Research Project activity:
Have the youth research a family member or a person from their community who served in uniform or contributed on the home front during the First World War. Veterans Affairs Canada offers a wealth of resources that can be of help, like the Books of Remembrance, the Canadian Virtual War Memorial and the First World War Audio Archive.
Encourage youth to interview descendants who know family stories about that person or talk to a local historian. They could then share their findings with each other and even compile their research into a 'book of reflection' for all to see.
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