During a community field trip, eighth graders were surprised to discover the remains of a World War II German Prisoner of War camp. The students subsequently talked about what they found at the site (i.e., saw blade, work boots, toothbrushes, pens and rusted machine parts) and what they did not find—any sign or marker identifying the camp. Believing the camp to be an important historical landmark, the students decided as a service-learning project to help preserve and commemorate the camp.
The students started by learning more about local, national and world history during World War II. They read newspaper accounts from that era, including local articles describing the arrival of the first prisoners. The students also interviewed local historians and community members who were alive during the war. In their language arts class, the students read Elie Wiesel’s Night and Betty Greene’s Summer of My German Solider to learn more about the war and the experiences of war prisoners. The class also visited another German Prisoner of War camp in Maine to see how another community had preserved its history.
After much discussion, the students decided that the best way to commemorate and preserve the POW camp would be to erect a sign at the site. Working with the local town office and Elias Monument, the students secured permission and funding for a granite monument to be placed at the camp. At the community unveiling ceremony for the monument, members of the Jackman Moose River Historical Society praised the students’ dedication and commitment to preserving this important piece of local and national history!