Grade 8 students at Draper Middle School brought World War II history to life for their classmates, faculty and staff with projects that were on display part of a “gallery walk” on Thursday, May 31. The day-long event was the culmination of nearly a month’s worth of work for the students. They shared their exhibits with gallery visitors, answering questions and describing unique aspects of the people, places and devastating events that took place during the war.
Each student worked in both social studies and English language arts classes to complete a report and create a display.
“It is an interdisciplinary effort that helps the students with research, writing and presentation skills,” said teacher Erika Pangburn, an English language arts teacher at the middle school.
Students could choose subjects they had an interest in. Topics ranged from the role of women in World War II to the use of propaganda by entertainment companies like Disney to support war efforts to an in-depth look at the Japanese dictators who were part of the war.
It was the culture of Japan that made Gavyn Starr want to learn more about the men who were in power in that country during World War II. He said one of the most interesting things he learned while working on the project was about former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.
“He asked his doctor to draw a circle around his heart so that if he was was in danger of being captured he would know where to shoot himself so he could die first,” said Gavyn Starr about Toji. “But he missed, and shot himself in the stomach. He lived but only to be executed later.”
For Kolbie Aylor, it was the show Band of Brothers he watched two years ago that led him to profile the real-life members of the 101st Airborne depicted in the show.
“I just wanted to learn more,” said Aylor. “I really enjoy World War II history.”
Hailee Albee learned that Hitler’s hatred was not limited to the Jews. Homosexuals, the disabled, mixed-race couples and anyone determined to be “different” were victimized during the Holocaust.
“Homosexuals were forced to wear bigger pink triangles when they were in the camps because Hitler wanted them to feel more embarrassed,” she said in her report. “The non-Jewish victims of World War II are important because they lost their lives too and they should be remembered.”
School staff and students alike also made personal connections to the World War II assignment.
Teacher William VanWie displayed several artifacts from his grandfather’s experience in the war and student Cuyler Mulqueen said his own grandfather was part of the reason he was excited to study World War II.
“My grandpa was a World War II veteran,” said Mulqueen. “He fought the Germans and would tell me about it. He lived a long life.”