Heineman eighth-grade students got an opportunity to hear about the history of United States wars first-hand, thanks to a number of U.S. military veterans who volunteered to speak with students at the school.
Students received basic information about the veterans’ backgrounds, including their time and role in the service. They then conducted research on both the larger history of those time periods and on aspects of their veteran’s experiences.
Then, in small groups, students interviewed the veterans about their experiences, including asking questions based on the specific research they conducted.
“It’s great for kids to be able to hear the reality of these experiences,” said Todd Ary, a Heineman social studies teacher who set up the interviews.
The volunteers included veterans of World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, and Vietnam War.
While students are guided with a number of interview questions, Ary said that it is common for organic conversations to arise based on the students’ natural curiosity about the veterans’ experiences. The interviews often include questions about the veterans’ personal experiences in dealing with the realities of war, as well as their opinions on decisions such as dropping the atomic bomb during WWII and the thinking behind the Vietnam War.
It’s that kind of lived information that students cannot get from a textbook, Ary said.
“It’s great to hear veterans talk about whether war is good or not. Students get to hear those opinions, and it really brings it full circle, to be able to understand what it takes to maintain the freedom we all enjoy.”
The following veterans participated: Warren Higgins, Richard Loughran, Tony Laforte, Bob Allen, Bill White, Chuck Veach, and Al Roberts.
“The biggest thing is that both the veterans and the students equally take something away from this,” Ary said. “It gives them an opportunity to feel the appreciation of what they’ve done and pass that down to the students. It’s really a win-win.”