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Commission builds broad partnership to achieve WWI education objectives

By Elizabeth Rupert, Kate Lyons, Mackensie Henn, and Adam Bieniek
Staff Writers

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, in partnership with the National World War I Museum and Memorial, is working with a broad range of organizations in order to launch an education program. Our partners include the Department of Education, History Channel, Library of Congress, National Archives, College Board, and International Baccalaureate. A pillar of our initiative is to create a country-wide education program for the public on an often overlooked time period in American history. The projected program will cover the entire war, with a particular emphasis on American involvement, and its lasting effect on world affairs.

libby oconnellCommissioner Libby O'ConnellDr. Libby O’Connell, presidentially-appointed Commissioner and Chair of the Education Committee, asserts, “Education is one of the three themes of our mission: to honor, to educate, and to commemorate. It is through education that the Commission creates its legacy, so that Americans of all ages will remember World War I once the centennial is over.”

The first step in our partnership with the National World War I Museum and Memorial is the creation of an educator-targeted newsletter that will be curated by historians, in order to disseminate useful information to teachers nationwide. Dr. O’Connell explains that this newsletter will reach almost 500,000 teachers starting this summer, though anyone interested can sign up for free on the World War One Centennial Commission’s website.

Education 300The Commission hopes to ignite interest in the war among younger students.While we hope to reach students and adults, our program will mainly focus on “Generation Z,” children born beginning in the late 1990’s. To provide such a resource, we have partnered with the Great War Channel on YouTube, which uploads videos each week to describe what was happening in the War exactly 100 years ago. By providing access to online visual materials, the Commission is igniting an interest in the War to younger generations. It has also proposed ways of engaging students inside the classroom, such as a lesson plan contest for teachers and an essay contest for students. By the conclusion of the Centennial period, the Commission hopes to have reached over 10 million students across the country.

The Commission’s partnership with the History Channel continues to increase its diverse collection of material on the war. Original educational programing has already started being produced for classrooms that incorporates curriculum resources and teachers guides, in addition to classroom broadcasts, which began in 2014. The Commission’s website currently includes links to a wide variety of educational websites that can be used by anyone, regardless of their prior knowledge or understanding of the War. One of these resources is to the Library of Congress, which houses numerous digital collections from the War and exposes fascinating aspects of its history. One such collection, “World War I Sheet Music,” contains a variety of popular American music that existed during that period. There are also copies of every issue of “The Stars and Stripes,” a newspaper that was distributed to American soldiers overseas to foster a sense of unity and morale.

monique brouillet 200 1Commissioner Monique SeefriedWe are also partnering with numerous states and countries. According to Dr. Monique Seefried, former Chair of the International Baccalaureate and Centennial Commissioner since 2013, she is, “working nationally with the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Louisiana and their respective World War I commemoration bodies.” Her efforts have resulting in bilateral agreements with both French and Flanders national organizations. Commissioner Seefried further stated, “WWI was a global conflict and should be studied from different perspectives, nationally and internationally... The conflicts the United States continue to be engaged in can all be traced back to WWI, from the Balkans to Ukraine, the Middle East and the South China sea. Teaching and learning through the complexities of WWI and the peace treaties is a lesson in ambiguity that can only serve Americans well as they look at the world ahead.” Dr. Seefried is fully committed to promoting greater understanding of the military’s service and to highlighting the longstanding generosity of the American people.

Each of these partnerships and initiatives are made with the common goal of ensuring that the memories of those who served on the war front and on the home front are never forgotten.

Elizabeth Rupert, Kate Lyons, Mackensie Henn and Adam Bieniek are 2016 Summer Interns at the World War One Centennial Commission.