Seventh grade students had the special opportunity to interview a panel of World War II veterans and individuals directly affected by the war on Tuesday, March 14. The interviews were the culmination of a curriculum unit on WWII.
"The students are able to learn about the war from all experiences," says Humanities teacher Tamara Bunnell. "Getting away from the singular view point is such an important element, both being human and having empathy, and also understand the real nature of conflict."
Students split into two groups and asked questions of the panelists. After the activity was over, all the students spent time reflecting on the day. Students spoke with Earl Collins, who served in the 8th Army Air Force in England; Helen Sabin, who served in the Coast Guard; Ed Ellington, who served in the Air Force; Ralph Pottinger, who served in the 8th Army Air Force in England; Anne and Wayne Sandstrom, who both served in the Navy; J.W. Roundhill, who served in the 8th Army Air Force; Anita Stein, who grew up in Stetting, Germany (now the city of Szvzecin, Poland); and Lillian Horita, a Japanese-American whose family was moved to an internment camp while she was a child.
Students asked the panels questions ranging from what their specific wartime experiences were like to how the GI Bill helped them receive education after the war. Humanities teacher Julie Kim says one of the important parts of the project is teaching students how to conduct an oral history properly and use open-ended questions.
"You can read about WWII and do as much research as you want, but you will only have that picture of what the war was like in a historical sense," says Gabriel S. '22. "It was amazing to meet some people who could provide their personal experiences of the war."
Many of the students mentioned how much they enjoyed seeing members of the panels, many of whom had never met before, interact with one another. Anita and Lillian traded books and conversed about their experiences in front of the students. Though similar in age, they experienced the war under completely different circumstances.
Says Taiya H. '22: "Lillian went to an internment camp. Anita had to live through Allied air raids living in Germany, but she wasn't a supporter of the regime. It really affected everyone. It wasn't just the Americans or the Allies who were fighting. Everyone was fighting their own battles.”
This is the fifth year students had the opportunity interview the panel. Theater faculty member Laura Ferri collected the veterans’ stories and turned them into an original play. More about that play can be read here.