Poster Activity (Ages 12-18)

Background

Introduce the subject of the First World War. Display the commemorative poster and point out that the faces in the images are often very young. It was not uncommon during the war years for teenagers 15 or 16 years old to exaggerate their age in order to enlist. Many soldiers were no older than young people in high school today. The last known Canadian First World War Veteran was only 15 years old when he joined the army. Brave young men, such as Private Tommy Holmes, who was only 19 when he was awarded a Victoria Cross (the highest Canadian award for valour) for his actions during the Battle of Passchendaele, made many remarkable contributions.

Poster Response

The Canada Remembers the First World War poster is composed of three different images. The image on the far right was taken in May of 1917. Canadian soldiers are on the back of a troop truck returning from the front lines at Vimy Ridge. They are jubilant in the wake of the victory there a month earlier. The Canadian Corps, together with the British Corps to their south, had captured more ground, prisoners and guns at Vimy Ridge than any previous offensive of the war.

The image on the left is of Canadian soldiers digging in a trench. During the First World War, most Canadian soldiers lived and fought in the trenches along the Western Front in Europe. Trench warfare was particularly hard and dangerous for the soldiers and is probably the dominant characteristic of the war when it is remembered today.

The image above and to the left in the poster is part of the impressive St. Julien Memorial in Belgium. This powerful memorial features a large stone figure of a brooding soldier, looking down from atop an 11-metre granite shaft. The memorial commemorates the Canadian actions during the Second Battle of Ypres in April, 1915, when they withstood a gas attack from the Germans and repelled the enemy against great odds.

Divide the participants into small groups (ideally of three or four individuals). Assign each person a task such as facilitator, recorder, presenter, etc. Using the Canada Remembers the First World War poster as a prompt, encourage discussion (have the groups write their responses on flipchart paper, if practical, to facilitate the sharing of their responses with the rest of the participants).

  • What thoughts go through your mind when you look at the poster? Does anything in the photos catch your eye?
  • How do the photos on the poster make you feel? What words or images are symbolic? What overall message do you think the poster is trying to communicate?
  • What is the significance of war memorials such as St. Julien? Why have we made an effort to erect and maintain these memorials?
  • Do you think it is important to remember the sacrifices and accomplishments that Canadians have made during times of war, military conflict, and peace? How are these accomplishments reflected in the peace and freedoms we enjoy today?
  • If a First World War Veteran were still alive today, what would you say to him?

After each group comes up with their responses, have a representative present the group's thoughts and encourage class discussion. Compare the various answers from each group and discuss how their answers are similar and how they are different. You may wish to use a Thought Web to compile the thoughts of the groups.

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