Showcasing My Students

Or, Life in the Fishbowl

Integrating U. S. History with Educational Technology
Deborah T. Aufdenspring
New Technology High School
Napa, California

That's our room on the left, glassed in for observation.

With all of the visitors and media attention, our students sometimes feel like they go to school in a fishbowl.

Nonetheless. I'd like to expose them to even more scrutiny by placing some of their work here on this page. (Other student work that dealt with analyzing music videos, haiku and history and the Congressional Committee visit is available on those respective web pages.)

Note: Due to platform and application conflicts, this collection of student work isn't quite ready yet. There is only one project (minus its pictures) below.
Sorry. Come back for more soon.

The Assignment: Students were to write a series of letters between a mother and her son during the World War I period. The letters had to be historically based, with factual material included. Below is such a series.

A Series Of Letters
Between An
American Soldier And His Mother
During World War I

Written by: Vivien S. Chua & Jennifer L. Chu

History / English Class 3 - 4
January 7, 1997

Dear Mother,

Hope you and the rest of the family haven't forgotten about me already. How are things doing back home? Is President Wilson mentioning anything about getting us out of here? The only news I heard was that someone assassinated the Archduke of Austria. Someone said that a Serbian did it, but details are sketchy around here. I'm starting to miss you and everyone else back home. My home now is in the trenches. Instead of smelling the scent of your delicious home cooking (which I miss incredibly), I smell nothing but smoke from the bombs they've been throwing around here. Don't worry, Ma, the bombs haven't reached us yet. Sometimes they set them off, and they can be smelled and heard for miles. I'm just praying that the bombs don't accidentally land in my trench. Those damn Germans...

I'm with 6 of my other buddies in the trenches, and let me tell you, all I can see in the front or back of me is nothing but mud and dirt. When I look to the right or to the left of me, I just see my fellow soldier boys and a long channel that stretches all the way to the next continent if it wanted to. To tell you the truth, Ma, I'm pretty scared. The trench looks and feels like a soldier's burial ground. It makes me feel uneasy at times thinking that one day a bomb will be aimed at us, and the dirt that flies through the air afterwards will bury me in that trench. I've never felt so much fear in my life. To think, your son is in a situation where he could be.... I don't want to say. I know I shouldn't think about that, but it's a reality I might have to face, being on the front lines and all. I don't want to worry you with all this nonsense, Ma, so we can get off the subject.

Just so you know, there's a lot of ammunition laying around. My superior officers have supplied us with guns, gas masks, and all types of artillery you wouldn't even imagine. All this metal talk is making me feel weighed down. I mean, really, Ma. Having to wear these huge vests that hold grenades, guns, and other weaponry can really wear a soldier out. Well, what am I complaining about? I was trained to do this; it shouldn't be a problem. Besides, you would think it would've been a waste for you and Dad to enlist me. We've been taught not to panic and think about the worst that could possibly happen. It's helped somewhat, but sometimes I can't help thinking about that.

Sorry to say this, Ma, but I have to go. The Sergeant is coming and he might put me in a position where I wouldn't want to be.... Write back soon. Say "Hi," to everyone for me and tell them I send my love. Take care and don't worry!

*Included is a picture I took of my friends here. We spend a lot of time together in the trenches.

Your little soldier boy

To my beloved Son,

Today, I just received the letter you sent to me a week ago How is my sweet one doing? I, along with the rest of the family are so delighted to hear from you, knowing that you are well. Don't you ever think we will forget you... you're one of us. We will always love you and we deeply miss your presence back here at home. You know it's so hard for me to have my babies over there in war, where things are so dangerous. I just can't wait until the day you are safely back into my care. You love my cookies, huh? When you get back home, I promise there will be a bucket full of my cookies waiting for you.

Everything back home is different with the war going on. It is different with most of the men gone off to fight. At this moment, I haven't heard or read that President Wilson is mentioning anything about getting you out of that place. I wish he would hurry up and bring you home to me. I also heard, from Aunt Rosa, that the Archduke of Austria and Hungary was assassinated by a Serbian. Have you heard of Herbert Hoover? Well, he is the food administrator and he is using slogans to urge us housewives to conserve food. I hear there is a shortage of food supplies over seas. Some of the silly sounding slogans are: "Food will win the war", "Use all leftovers", and "Serve just enough." Most of the people here are trying to cooperate and do anything we can to help end the war... the sooner the better.

The thought of my son practically living in those trenches with bombs flying overhead makes me more worried. Even though we enlisted you, I still didn't want you to go. Your father persuaded me, thinking it would be better that you fight for our country. I knew if we didn't enlist you, you would still be over there and we would be in the same situation. The military would've probably drafted you, just as they did your younger brother. I recently heard from him; thank God he is doing well. I worry and miss you both so much it hurts.

You scared? Weighed down? Whatever you are feeling is only natural. No matter what, your Father and I are so proud of you! And don't you forget that!! If you could only see me, Son, you would think I looked terrible... my face is soaked with tears... tears of pride for my sons. Remember, your dear mother misses you. I will write to you again very soon, and I hope you will do the same. Promise me you'll be careful.. Your sisters send their love. You are in our prayers. We love you!

Your Loving Mother

To my beloved Son,

I miss you terribly! You won't believe the shocking news I heard today which made me worry about you even more. This morning, I was having tea with my friend (she, too, has two sons in the war). This is when she told me the horrible news; she had just received a telegram from an officer telling that her eldest son had died in the Battle of Verun. I am not exactly sure of how he died because my friend was so distressed. I couldn't help thinking of you and your brother. I don't know what I would do if...if the worst happens to one of you, or both. I broke down crying trying to be strong and comfort my friend. I know you haven't wrote back to me yet, but I just needed to speak to you. All the time I try to think positive, but at times I can't help myself. I just pray every night that God will protect you out there, keeping you alive. I always hear that many men are losing their lives out there. They are so and your brother are so young. You are only eighteen and your brother is only sixteen. Be careful and please respond back as soon as possible to reassure me that you are fine. Everyone sends their love to you and everyone misses you, even your dog.

Your Loving Mother

Dear Mother,

I just wrote you to tell you that I'm alive and well here in Verdun. Just now another great battle was in our midst, and we lost some men out there. Some of my front line buddies I used to be stationed with were a target. Ma, how long do you think this will go on? All this fighting and bombing is getting the US. nowhere. Just answer me this: why are we here? Why is your son involved with this? Why am I so scared of dying and getting my body blown to bits? I think my fear is getting the best of me. I could really use one of those lullabies you would sing to me when I was little...To tell you the truth, all I do now is look back on the past, back to when I didn't have to worry about jeopardizing my own life. There is so much I could be doing now if I wasn't in this war. I could be waxing that Model T that Dad had promised to get me. Id shine that baby all day, with the sun's rays touching my back. But it's not like that at all. Instead, I have to listen to orders and yelling from the drill sergeant. The only things I would be shining would be my shoes or my gun. Well, what can you do?

I'm really sorry I started off with a negative thought, Ma. Lately, all I can feel around me is fear. There is no love to keep me going. The only love I receive here is the love from you and the family back home sending it to me, with dried teardrops on the letter. That's the only thing I've got going for me. That's the only encouragement I have to keep me alert of what's going on. Let me tell you, it helps a lot. When I'm out there on the field, only so much goes through my mind. I could only wish that I was just out there playing, holding a toy rifle and playing with little Johnny in the front yard. Fear practically surrounds me now, Ma. At times, I don't know how to cope with that fear. Whether it's the fear of not making it, jumping a little short, or slow in ducking down, I feel it. My hands shake and the rest of me quivers in fear every day I go out there. It's so difficult to be out here sometimes, but you taught me to be strong and fight. I'll do my best to fulfill that and make you and Dad proud of me.

How are things back home doing? Have we elected yet another new president that's just there to sit back in his chair and listen to what's going on here on the other side of the world? I'm sorry for sounding so frustrated. If only that Serbian hadn't killed the archduke...There were so many prisoners captured along the way. I swear, Ma, I couldn't get any closer to being captured by the Germans. Did I forget to mention that? Well, I just got lucky because I crawled out of the spotlight before anyone could notice me. (These war stories are beginning to come along.) I ducked, I covered, and did everything I could to stay out of the trouble zone. I'm so thankful I'm alive to be able to be writing you this letter.

Well, Ma, it was nice hearing from you again. Keep the sending the letters and the love because it's been a charm for me. I hope I'm home soon before you know it. Then again, who knows with all the up and down outcomes of this game that power plays. I forgot to tell you in the last letter--- please tell the dog I say, "Hi." Explain to him the situation I'm in. Coming from you, he'll understand. Thank you for always being there, Ma. Take care.

Your little soldier boy

To my beloved Son,

Thank you for responding to my last letter so quickly. I am full of joy to hear that you are alive and well. I thought that the Battle of Verdun was going to be the worst after I received the tragic news from my friend about her son. I am sorry about the last letter . I just wrote it because I was so worried about you. It made me feel better and closer to you. Besides it is the only way for me to communicate to you since I can not talk to you in person. So you tell me that the Allies did pretty well in the Battle of Verdun and the outcome was in our favor. I am just glad that you weren't hurt. I am sorry to hear about your buddies that died fighting. I know it must be hard for you to deal with the loss of your friends. I send my condolences. Considering the situation, I hope that you are handling things well. I wish I could be there for you in person rather that on paper.

I am not sure of when this war will end. I hear that the Germans and their allies are not giving up easily. I hope that the war will end soon so that everything will go back to the way things were before with both of my sons back home under my roof. What I hope for probably won't happen and in reality I believe the war will go on for a couple of years.

You are off in war because you are fighting for our country. The Germans had sunk a ship that killed all people including Americans. It is only natural that you are scared of dying. I know you are strong and you know if it were me over there, I would be going out of my mind by now. Don't worry about the emotions you are feeling... other soldiers are probably feeling the same way. You know all the things that you want to do, you can still do them all when you come back home. I am sorry I can't really do anything about all the ordering and yelling from your drill sergeant. Just try to pretend that it is me or you Father telling you to clean your room or take charge of the farm for awhile. I know it's hard for you to be so far away from all the things you love. It is hard for the both of us. I miss you so much and there isn't a minute that goes by that I Don't think of you.

Here at home, we got to go through McAdoo, Hoover, and Creel's patriotism campaigns. I joined the Women's Council of Defense that was formed by women of Geneva, Illinois. The purpose of this group is to conserve food for the war effort. I know that the Allies need a lot of food to feed all those brave soldiers. The whole United States sends crops for the Allies overseas. Mostly everyday I, along with your sisters and many other women, help to plow fields and take care of the farms. Agriculture has to stay alive so that you and all the soldier will have some food. I never really realized how hard it is to run our farm. I don't know how you men did it. Your sisters would rather be playing with their dolls, but they help anyway hoping that it will help get you and your brother back home sooner. Some other women help out producing ammunition along with some other stuff for the war at the Burgess-Norton Company. Many companies cooperated with the government's war effort. It is kind of strange that the companies are growing and increasing their profit.

I am glad you read my letters and write back. It makes me feel closer to you. Be careful, okay. I will keep sending the letters to you and you do the same. I love you and you are in my prayers. I love you! Your sisters say "Hi".

Your Loving Mother

Dear Mother,

The worst that could possibly happen has happened to me. I'm in a hospital where I have to stay for some days or weeks. I accidentally inhaled poisonous gas fumes that made me extremely nauseous and I ended up vomiting all over the place. Don't panic, Ma. I'm slowly recuperating from this. From time to time, a little undigested food comes out here and there, but I'm all right. The doctor says I need to rest for now.

I can't tell you how happy I am to be in here, Mother. Just think, I won't have to be in the front lines for a while. You're probably wondering how this happened to me, so I'll tell you. (Here goes another story to tell the folks back home.) We were fighting in Ypres. Both sides were firing their guns and throwing these bombs that we hadn't even heard of yet, until a few brigades of men started checking into the hospital (and that's including yours truly). All of a sudden, the hospital filled with all these men with the same symptoms, so we're practically occupying all of the hospital bed space. I wish you could visit me here, but you shouldn't fly all the way over here. I really miss all of you. I knew all that talking negative about me was getting me nowhere, but it landed me here, all in one piece. isn't that reassuring to know?

The leader of the brigade came in earlier to give me a status check on the war so far. We've lost a lot of men on the Allied side. Score one point for the Central Powers! Frankly, I'm not too thrilled at the idea, considering they are the one's that put me here. Aren't I just fortunate, Ma, to not have caught those trench diseases while I was down there? I guess I was just lucky. I could've been chewed on by rats or would've lost my hair and my head in a second because there were so many lice. I could've been scratching my head so hard, it would've practically fallen off. One of the guys on the front line suffered from dysentery and he's in here being treated for it at almost every hour. I asked my doctor what happened, and he said that the poor guy had parasites in his system. He also said he is in excruciating pain and the other doctors are trying to cure it.

Ma, I have to make this letter short because I'm not feeling too well with all this talk about pain and parasites. Keep in touch and remember to send the "Hello" and "I Miss You greetings to everyone. I'll be back on the field or at home before you know it. Goodbye for now.

*Here are some pictures of my friends eating the food that is shipped over here from the United States.

Your little soldier boy

To my beloved Son,

It took you longer than usual to respond back to my letters. I was so worried that something had happened to my little darling. When I finally received your last letter, I was so delighted until I read what you had to say. Reading through your letter in tears, I couldn't believe that my baby got hurt and is in the hospital. I hope that you are not suffering that much from inhaling all those poisonous gas fumes. I wish I was there to take care of you myself. I figure that the doctors there have so many other patients that they don't spend much time taking care of you. Remember when you were a little boy and you got sick? I would make you better with my soup. You loved my cooking! I just hate it that you are lying in the hospital sick, but glad that your condition is improving. I told you to be more careful! Where was your gas mask that you are supposed to have? In a way, I think that it is good that you are spending time in the hospital because it means you are alive and like you said, you wouldn't be fighting in the front lines for a while. Hearing your bad news made me panic and become even more worried about you. I'm thankful that you are in one piece and alive! You say you were fighting in Ypres when you inhaled the poisonous gas. It was a silent bomb, right? Or there must have been so much noise made by all the guns being fired. Thank goodness you did not get even more sick by catching one of those diseases you were talking about, especially with the parasites. I hate to see or hear that you are in pain. Do whatever your doctor tells you to do so that you could get a full recovery. Try to stay healthy and eat all the food you can (you are too skinny). I miss you and love you very much. I will pray that you will get better and stay alive. Your sisters and your dog send their love. I didn't tell your sisters of your condition in great detail because I didn't want them to worry even more than they already are.

I, too, have heard that the Allies have lost many men, but I think that the Central Powers have a greater number of casualties. Well, get some rest to regain your strength. I wish I could write longer to you, but I have to attend to the farm work before it gets too dark. Write back soon. Remember I love you!

*I included a picture of your dog. Hope it will cheer you up!

Your Loving Mother


E-mail me.

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