New teaching materials on World War II in the Pacific available

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is proud to announce the launch of new materials related to World War II in the Pacific on the award-winning website Understanding Sacrifice, created in partnership with National History Day ®(NHD) for the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and the VA National Cemetery Administration (NCA) .

Personal perspective on the war

Katie Hoerner at USS Arizona Memorial

As part of the summer field study, social studies teacher, Katie Hoerner (above), and her fellow teachers visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii. Photo by C. Gorn.

One of the most arresting features of the site is the gallery of Fallen Heroes. This past school year, 18 teachers from around the country each selected a WWII service member or civilian buried or memorialized in an ABMC or NCA cemetery to research. The connection to the teacher might have been geographic, such as the case of social studies teacher Katie Hoerner, who chose to research the life of fellow Illinoisan Bruce Bradley who died on the USS Arizona. For social studies teacher, Matt Poth, the connection to his fallen hero, William Seiverling Jr., came from their shared Marine Corps experience. California special education teacher Jose Cumagun shared a connection to the Philippines with his fallen hero, Teofilo Yldefonzo, an Olympic medalist and Philippine Scout.

Several teachers have chosen to include their students in the research process. The teachers find that researching an individual makes the war more personal for their students and they report that their students are engaged in the historical research process.

To help other teachers embark on this type of research, the site includes a new section, Researching a Fallen Hero, which provides teachers with lesson plan ideas, tips, handouts and examples of how to conduct this type of research in a classroom. Written by Kevin Wagner, a high school social studies teacher whose students have researched the lives of service members for several years, the section also includes videos from Wagner’s classroom of the process in action.

Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans

Whitney Joyner at the Opana radar station

STEM teacher Whitney Joyner, standing in front of the tower at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, prepares to deliver her video introduction about RADAR’s role in the Pearl Harbor attack. Photo by C. Preperato.

This year’s cohort of 18 teachers represented diverse teaching backgrounds in social studies, language arts, visual arts, and performing arts. The lessons, designed for middle and high school classrooms, reflect this diversity. For example:

  • Under Their Wing explores the impact of flight nurses in the Pacific theater through analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RADAR: Innovating Naval Warfare, a STEM lesson, asks students to plot an attack on an enemy convoy in order to understand how RADAR impacted the war.
  • Race and Tragedy on the Home Front, invites students to compare different versions of events related to Port Chicago, CA, the site of the worst disaster on the home front that killed 320 sailors and civilians, mostly African American.
  • The Song of War introduces students to poetry created by the Hell Hawks, a Marine fighter squadron, and invites them to create their own found poetry.

Professional Development Resources

Understanding Sacrifice also includes a new PD Resources section that includes a series of short videos related to different aspects of World War II. Featuring project historian Christopher Hamner analyzing primary sources, these videos cover topics such as African American Experiences, Comparing Cemeteries, D-Day in Documents, Race and the Enemy, Why They Fight, and Women in the Workforce, among others. Teachers can watch these short videos for professional development or they can use them in their classroom. Each video page provides links to the original primary sources discussed.

About Understanding Sacrifice

Sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and the VA National Cemetery Administration (NCA), Understanding Sacrifice is an 18-month professional development program for secondary teachers. Working with the team from National History Day® and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, 18 teachers annually create free, interdisciplinary lessons to share with other educators. The goal is to bring ABMC and NCA resources into classrooms to help students better understand the service, experience, and sacrifice of American service members during World War II.

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