Social Studies and English lessons combined for Weyauwega-Fremont High School’s junior class last week during a cross-categorical unit involving local veterans.
On Friday, April 10, the English 11 classes of Adrienne Rice and the American History classes of Patrick Fee spent close to two hours working together on the project.
Fifteen veterans, representing World War II to more recent conflicts, visited the school to share their stories with the students.
In small groups, students interviewed the veterans, gathering information for two different writing assignments.
“It’s beautiful,” Leon Maierhafer said of the idea.
Maierhafer served in the U.S. Navy from 1955-1959 and was among the veterans who participated in last week’s project.
For several veterans, including Maierhafer and Bill Brace, it was not the first time they made the trip to the high school to talk to students.
A panel of about five veterans has done a similar project with Fee’s class the past several years.
“I could tell the kids wanted more, and the veterans wanted to give more,” Fee said of when the approximately 45-minute class period ended.
Last year, Rice was talking to Fee about a similar project she did with her students when the two teachers decided to do a cross-categorical unit.
Rice assigned her students to interview someone who lived through the Depression or World War II.
She took the concept from her own experience of interviewing a veteran for a social studies class when she was a student at Waupaca High School and then writing a paper about the veteran.
Rice said that experience had a profound effect on her life. She visited the veteran on her own after that assignment.
Over the course of last summer, Rice and Fee discussed what a combined project could look like for W-F High School’s junior class.
Their goal was to make it a school community event.
Rice noted that Connie Peterson’s computer class helped with the nameplates, Joe Gruentzel’s technology education students made the wooden holders for the nameplates and NHS members helped serve the veterans lunch that the cooks prepared.
The juniors are writing two different papers for the project.
For Fee’s class, they researched a conflict ahead of time, interviewed a veteran and are writing analytical papers, comparing and contrasting what they learned in their research with what they learned from the veterans.
For Rice’s class, the students learned about interview strategies and participated in mock interviews in preparation for the April 10 project. They are writing personal narratives for her class.
The assessments will take place over the course of the next two weeks, Fee said.
He said the project grew from incorporating the English and Social Studies classes to other classrooms and school staff.
“It’s great, the depth they would never get from a lecture or a book,” Fee said. “What a great opportunity to have our youth connect.”
He hopes they are able to continue doing a project like this at this level.
Rice said, “I would like some of my former students come who are in the service.”
As someone who participated in the smaller panel in Fee’s classroom and now the cross-categorical unit, Brace said the veterans had more “one on one than before” with the students.
The students also liked the project.
“I think my favorite thing about this experience was hearing their stories. Hearing them and watching their facial expressions when they told about the good times and the hard times,” said Jordan Rucks.
The veteran Ryanne Benz interviewed was a junior in high school when he enlisted in the service.
“So he gave up his high school experiences early,” she said, “but it made him a better man. His life lessons from the war will help me out in life, too, like when you’re a leader, you have to worry about everyone else, not yourself.”