Eighth graders learn about World War II in Normandy

Eighth grader Michael Zielinski stands at the graves at the British military cemetery. Many students were moved by the messages and quotes on the gravestones (photo courtesy of Ms. Solange Kidd).

Not many of us have experienced war first-hand, but seeing Normandy makes history come alive for many people. On May 7 to 11, the eighth-grade students and teachers went to Normandy in France as part of the World War II curriculum for social studies. Throughout the trip, students visited three cemeteries: an American, a British, and a German which many students found moving. They also visited the Caen Peace Museum and the most important beaches of the invasions in Normandy. The trips also gave the students a lot of freedom to explore different towns in France and let the French students work on their language skills. 

To many of the students, being in the cemeteries was a very emotional experience, especially for students who had relatives buried there.  Many felt more grateful for those who fought for peace after being in the cemeteries. Eighth-grade student Elena Stathopoulos said, “It was unsettling to see the amount of people that had lost their lives, but it was interesting to see how each country remembers their soldiers in their own ways. We learnt a lot about the reality of war by being here.” 

Walking along the beaches was very special to many students as well. They were able to be alone and take time to think and process everything their own way. Eighth-grade student Micaella Lavi said about the beaches, “Being able to be on the beaches makes the war less of a story in our history books and more of a scary reality.” 

Students watched a clip of the movie Saving Private Ryan where soldiers were running up Omaha beach under German gunfire. Right after watching this, the students had the opportunity to walk on Omaha beach. For many students, it was powerful and emotional to then stand on those sands afterward. 

The trip to Normandy gave eighth graders a more personal understanding of the war. It lets them see how World War II truly destroyed lives and families. Being there makes everything more real and it is important to properly honor and remember those who gave their lives.

About Emma Whitman ('21)

Staff Writer (2016-17)

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