Students leading restoration and re-dedication of WWI Memorial
- Written by Trilla Cook
Creekwood’s service learning project to be national model It would be difficult for most to imagine the unseen forces that brought together a photographer of World War I veterans, the last surviving World War I American veteran, a U.S. Congressman from Texas, a middle school service learning project, and the forgotten WWI monument in Washington, D.C. When Creekwood Middle School science teacher Jan York approached principal Walt Winicki with the idea of bringing photographer David DeJonge’s traveling World War I photo exhibit to their school, little did she know it would launch her school’s patriotic service learning project as a national model. Winicki said the CMS staff involved in the WWI service learning project will present the “Creekwood Model” at the Texas Service-Learning Summer Institute in Austin. Winicki said they will also be working with national service learning organizations to share the project so other schools can use it and improve upon it. “We’re also excited that Cathryn Berger Kaye, an author of service learning books, plans to include the ‘Creekwood Model’ in her next book,” said Gina Horn, teacher and member of the CMS Service Learning Committee. “Service learning provides meaningful ways for students, teachers and community members to move together with deliberate thought and action toward a common purpose,” said Horn. “Students benefit academically and socially, develop skills and appreciate the value of civic responsibility. Teachers make education more relevant for their students through this kind of learning,” she said. The CMS service learning project 2008-2009 to help restore and re-dedicate the forgotten D.C. WWI Memorial became a reality through the Humble Service Learning Advisory Board and Texas Learn and Serve Grant, which brought the national debut of DeJonge’s traveling photo exhibit of the last WWI veterans to CMS for a three-day period in February. The school was transformed into a WWI history museum complete with authentic uniforms donated by Matt Weeks, Riverwood Middle School teacher. The photo exhibit was also on display at the Humble Civic Center for a day, which allowed several schools to participate along with the CMS docents including Kingwood High, Quest High, Atascocita High, Kingwood Park High and Riverwood Middle schools. Students at CMS raised nearly $14,000 toward the refurbishment and expansion of the D.C. WWI Monument with efforts including selling T-shirts and backpack tags, conducting a coin drive and bringing awareness to the surrounding communities. During the course of the project, instructional material on WWI was integrated across the curriculum. Students studied many related topics including the stages of war, genealogy and chemical warfare, with plans to continue the project during the next school year and discussions to expand to districtwide involvement. “A parent came to the exhibit at the Civic Center to see what her child had been talking about for a week or two. Her son had never really commented on what was happening in school before, but during the World War I service learning project, he came home each day and talked about what he had learned in his classes related to the project. When you get students involved and connected like that with their learning, that’s powerful,” said Winicki. In the beginning, the Service Learning Committee at CMS was unaware that Congressman Ted Poe had previously introduced legislation to re-dedicate the D.C. War Memorial as a National World War I Memorial. Poe and Frank Buckles, 108-year-old last surviving American veteran of WWI and honorary chairman of the National World War I Memorial Foundation, held a press conference to announce the introduction of Poe’s bill in September. It is reported that the National Parks Service estimates the cost will total $5 million. Eleven teachers, three parents and three students from CMS traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to the site of the forgotten memorial. The team joined with a group of students from Capitol City Public Charter School to sweep and clean the monument to soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Coastguardsmen from the District of Columbia who fought, as the memorial says, “in the world war,” which today is known as World War I. The CMS group joined Poe for a tour of parts of the Capitol building including the House of Representatives gallery and the Pentagon where DeJonge’s original photo exhibit was on display. The CMS team also visited with Frank Buckles on his farm in Charles Town, W.Va. and presented a check totaling nearly $14,000 to benefit the foundation. “No district funds were used for the team’s travel expenses,” Horn said. Perhaps the nearly five million Americans who served in WWI, including the 116,561 who died in defense of democracy overseas, are among those unseen forces smiling down on this project. For more information, visit the Creekwood Middle School Web site at www.humble.k12.tx.us; http:/www.studentnewsnet.com/WWI Photo: Creekwood Middle School students Seth Whitt, Katie Morrison and Hannah Plagens traveled with the CMS Service Learning Committee to Charles Town, W.Va. to present a nearly $14,000 check to Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of WWI, for the World War I Memorial Foundation to restore the forgotten monument in D.C.