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Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on March 5th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 52

New Tech High freshmen showcase WWI with museum

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

A tiny green G.I. Joe was running up the side of the Italian Alps when a mound of white flour toppled him over. It was an avalanche. Bam! The little guy was down; he was no longer able to face his enemy.

Avalanches like the one that nailed the G.I. Joe were a common occurrence in the battles waged on the Italian Front during World War I. There were also hypothermia, frostbite, and altitude sickness, according to Trey Cooper, Tim Huffrid, Max Schermerhorn, and Robert Morison. They are a group of freshmen at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo. Together with the rest of their freshmen class, the quartet put on a series of exhibits for a WWI history museum showcased at the high school on Feb. 25.

The mountain they created was essentially a mound of earth on top of canvas to keep the classroom floor dirt-free. Flour dusted over the top of the mound became snow, and G.I. Joes were positioned at the mound’s summit and along its slopes. The toys represented Italians, Austrians, and Hungarians. 

Projects for the museum incorporated digital components such as photo essays, maps, and charts, in addition to writings from soldiers, national leaders, and others who participated in the war.

“The goal of the project is to answer the following question: How can a World War I museum of remembrance capture the causes and consequences of WWI and reflect how national/international policies affected human lives, psyches, and the social, cultural, biological, and political developments of the world?” Lucia Mar School District spokesperson Amy Jacobs said in a press release. “This is a great example of project-based learning in action.”

It sounds horrific to fight in a war during which the elements are just a big of a challenge as battling the enemy.

What about facing chemical weapons without a gas mask?

For their museum project, freshmen KC Harris, Hannah Hernandez, Megan Garcia, Cooper Lock, and Gerrit VanderVeen took on the chemical aspects of the war.

The crew ushered museum visitors into a canvas tent set up in an open area on campus. Covered in mud from head to foot, a soldier was rushed into the tent on a gurney. Nurses’ attempts to save the soldier’s life with morphine were useless. He was dead within minutes.

Chemical weapons made their field debut during the first years of WWI; the first time chlorine gas was used on the battlefield, 1,000 French soldiers died in less than 10 minutes. In the years that followed, a progressive development of face masks to help combat the new weapon rendered it almost moot by the end of the war.

Harris informed guests that of the 1.25 million overall deaths in WWI, 10 percent—or 90,000—of the casualties were caused by chemical warfare.