World War I can be confusing to modern students. Here are some lesson plans that help make sense of the events and the experience.
Virtual Field Trip
Visit the new online exhibit of the National World War I Museum.
- Begin with the Interactive Timeline. The events are listed and described, but in a format that encourages additional exploration. Turn students loose to figure out the best way to include these events on your classroom timeline.
- Add these events to your classroom map as well.
- Visit Harmonies of the Homefront and listen to the WWI-era songs there. Five songs are available for listening and there are six more sheet music covers to view. Depending on the grade level of the students, choose a selection of the songs and have students conduct a survey to find out how many people remember these songs. Again depending on the age of your students, they might ask their parents and grandparents, survey friends and neighbors, ask their Facebook or Twitter contacts, arrange to visit a local nursing home to survey the residents, or prepare an online survey with a tool like Survey Monkey. Create graphs and charts to show the results of the survey.
- Visit Man and Machine, an online exhibition with quotations and photos showing the German soldier’s experience. Challenge students to write about the effects of technology on the war, as reflected in these materials.
- Download the Family Guide and print it out for some fun worksheet activities.
- Teachers can also request lesson plans called Lessons of Liberty.
If you’re near Kansas City, be sure to visit the Museum in person!
One of the online exhibitions of the WWI Museum is a collection of Canadian propaganda posters. FirstWorldWar.com has an international collection of posters (plus lots of other resources). Learn NC has American propaganda posters, with interesting commentary on each.
Use these resources to study propaganda posters from World War I. Here are some questions to discuss:
- What did these posters ask people to do? (knit, enlist, give money, grow vegetables, etc.)
- Why were people asked to do these things?
- What emotions did they appeal to?
- Which groups did they reach out to? (women, immigrants, young men, students, etc.)
- Did they show bias against any groups of people?
- What colors did the posters use?
- What styles of art did they use?
- What kinds of lettering did the posters use?
Compare WWI propaganda posters with modern Homeland Security documents. We found the “If You See Something Say Something” campaign, but you may have other examples. Although the United States has been at war during our students’ lifetimes, the American people are not asked to make sacrifices, to enlist, or even to plant vegetables. Have students research or discuss why those requests were made in the past, and why they are not made now. This will help students to understand the way that World War II affected the people “on the home front.”
Challenge students to create a modern propaganda poster, either using the “If You See Something, Say Something” slogan or encouraging people to take some other action.
The Ozark Folk Center is a state park in Mountain View, Arkansas, where a mountain town has been recreated as living history. Here visitors can get a greater understanding of the life of American pioneers.
Certainly, most of the people in a town like this in the 1800s would have been farmers, growing their own food and making most of the things they uses. However, there were some special skills that a community would need, and we visited the people who had special jobs that shared those skills with their neightbors.
We visited a wood carver. Many men would whittle a spoon or other household objects, but there might also be a woodcarver in town, a person who could make special things like wooden toys. In the town where we live, the first Christmas tree was in the home of a German immigrant toymaker. He charged people ten cents to come see his Christmas tree, and gave each person a carved wooden toy. At the Folk Center, the woodcarver makes fine wooden toys.
Another woodworker was the cooper, someone who could make barrels, churns, and other large wooden objects.
The cooper at the Folk Center told us that a small town wouldn’t usually have a cooper, but there would usually be a farmer who did some coopering, making butter churns and wooden bowls for the people of the community.
A community might also be lucky enough to have a potter. The Folk Center’s potter makes beautiful pots, bowls, cups, and more. A pioneer community would count on a potter to make jugs and dishes.
A larger town might have a printer, someone who could print newspapers for the town, and possibly also signs and circulars for stores. The Folk Center’s printer showed us how he takes metal type, small metal letters, from wooden cases, puts them together, and then prints with his printing press. No electricity required. One of the things he printed was a set of rules for students from 1872:
It was fun to visit a pioneer town. It was interesting to see how people worked and went to school more than a century ago.
We went to a city market and a country one. Check out our Farmers Market Lesson Plans, too!
Dr. Douglas Hutchings tells us about his experience as an entrepreneur.
We got to go to the High Density Electronics Center at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. Dr Douglas Hutchings took us in to see the place where he and his colleagues work on their innovative solar energy invention.
Some parts of the lab look a lot like an ordinary office. They have chairs and worktables and computers. However, the parts behind yellow plastic are “clean rooms.” They have no dust in them, and people must wear special clean room suits to go in them. There’s a “Gowning Room” where the scientists put on their gear and then go directly into the clean room so they don’t bring anything in with them.
Dr. Hutchings explained that some of the parts they work with are only as big as a grain of dust, so any dust would ruin their products.
The clean rooms are covered with plastic and filled with interesting things like lasers and special machines. Dr. Hutchings told us about a 3D printer, a machine that can print out three dimensional objects the way a printer at schools prints out worksheets.
We’re not sure what this machine does. Different researchers use the HIDEC lab, including both scientists from the university and scientists working at businesses in town.
This is a list of “prechecks”: reminders of things to check before beginning to use the machine. The HIDEC lab has some dangerous machines and chemicals, and the equipment is expensive and delicate, so everyone is very careful.
These lights are alarms that go off in case of any kind of danger.
In our science classes, we learn about safety procedures and the scientific method and we do experiments. It’s interesting to see where working scientists do their experiments.
…a what? Long ago, millers were very important people in any village. A mill would take the grain farmers grew and grind it into flour or meal so people could bake with it.This essential step in the progression from raw materials to finished goods makes a good lesson in economics, and the mill wheel itself is a great start for a look at energy or force and motion. Of course, this is also a good history lesson.
War Eagle Mill was built in 1832 to serve the needs of pioneers in our area. It is one of the few pioneer era grist mills still working today, and we feel fortunate to be able to visit and see how grains used to be made into flour in the past. We’re also glad War Eagle Mill still operates today, because this old fashioned method makes for very delicious baking.
Without a mill, people had to grind up grains themselves. Where we live, this would usually have been corn. War Eagle Mill shows the tools people used, and even lets people try them out.
Kids can use a stone to grind different types of corn so they can discover the differences among the different types. They’ll also discover what hard work it was to grind up enough to feed the family!
The grinding stone has a bowl in it where the stone has been worn away by the grinding, and of course that means that very small particles of stone ended up in the meal or flour, increasing the mineral content. When we visited the Ancient Village at the Cherokee Cultural Center, we saw (and posted a photo for you) the other type of grinding tool: a hollowed log with a wooden stick. This took more muscle power, but leverage helped. Have students try grinding dried corn with different kinds of tools to compare the effects. An ordinary kitchen morter and pestle is an easy option.
A 19th century mill like the War Eagle would use a millstone like this one to grind the meal, and the grinding was powered not by human strength but by water. This is how it’s still done at the War Eagle Mill today.
The grain would go down through the pipes into the mill, and the stones would be turned by the machinery you can see above. The machinery was in turn powered by the mill wheel. Again, this is still how War Eagle Mill mills grains.
Water from War Eagle creek is caught in the paddles of the wheel and turns the wheel. Since it is attached to the mill inside the building, the mill wheel makes the mill turn, and grinds the grain. You can easily make a model water wheel in the classroom, and this is also a good time to look at gears. We like WaterHistory.org’s page on the history of water wheels for the science connection. In fact, lessons on energy fit in very well here.
The mill wheel works the same way that the paddle wheel on a boat like the Steamboat Arabia works. The mill race has a lot of power from the movement of the water, and the mill harnesses that power and uses it.
Modern mills usually use electricity to run their mills, and their mills are quite different from War Eagle, but the principle is the same. Grains like corn and wheat are ground up into flour so that they can be used for baking. War Eagle has jars of different grains, including quinoa and other grains that are newer to us, and the flours and meals they can be milled into.
They take those grains and meals and bake them into traditional foods like cornbread, pies, and cinnamon rolls which you can eat upstairs in their restaurant.
They also have displays of artifacts from their history there. On the day we visited, there was a lady who had been born in 1926 having beans and cornbread at the mill, and she told us all about how she had used similar items as a child. We’re not children, but we might not have been able to guess the purposes of all the objects we saw, so we were glad to have the information.
At War Eagle Mill, you can buy flour and meal and things like that, so we brought some home to use for our Thanksgiving baking. In the picture below, you can see some things we still use today: flour and meal ground in the traditional way at the grist mill, my grandmother’s cookbook from the 1940s, my great-grandmother’s dough bowl hand carved for kneading bread dough, and her hand carved rolling pin for rolling out pie crusts.
For young children, just seeing how things were long ago can be very intriguing. Many urban children have no idea where bread comes from, besides the grocery store. Following grains from the farm to the table is a good study for elementary school students, and middle school and high school students should be ready to consider how automation of grinding would impact the lives and work of the pioneers. In our region, this would include both European American settlers traveling West from the colonies and Cherokee settlers taking up more modern technology. Bring in your region’s local history as well — chances are, the transition from home grinding to the use of a grist mill took place where you live, too.