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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz County

December 4, 2013
Playing History

Simulating History: WWI Trench Warfare Lesson

A Secret Santa gift circle is a great way to stay in-budget for the holidays.

Suki: Enter the Big Girl

This Week
Family Day: Sharks - Secrets Revealed
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  Playing History

(Graphics) CowboyandIndian-2kids.jpgRemember when kids had cap guns and played "cowboys and Indians", no doubt inspired by The Lone Ranger, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, et.al.  Then came the movement to ban children from playing with toy guns, although children deprived of a toy gun often resort to sticks and pointing their fingers.  I've met mothers who were devastated that their sons, who had never been allowed to play with guns, had enlisted in the army.  

The fact is that there is always conflict/warring somewhere on this planet; it's the nature of humans.  Many people are dedicated to the cultivation of peaceful coexistence, from the families to nations.  I admire them.  Pragmatically, on a world level, achieving world peace is a daunting endeavor.  

Do we hide our heads in the sand or teach children the reality of history and human nature.  What happens if children are taught agendized history and who determines what is fact and what is fiction?  I believe that arming ourselves and our children (at appropriate ages) with facts expands their understanding and knowledge of how the real world works and hopefully, ultimately lessen conflicts and increase peace. 

(Holidays) Christmas_peacedove.jpgWe all know that play is how children learn and make sense of the world.  What better way to make history come alive and to prepare citizens of the world! 

Have a great weekend preparing for and celebrating your own most meaningful holiday, Parmalee

 

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  Simulating History: WWI Trench Warfare Lesson

(Photos General) MM_History1_BoyCharge.jpgGarbed in loose-fitting, camouflage print jackets, t-shirts and jeans, their long hair bound in tight braids, two eleventh grade girls bent down, and each dipped a finger in the sticky mud, and casually smeared muddy lines under their eyes and across their cheeks. Then, with a little nervous, anticipatory chatter, they rejoin their classmates in a three-foot wide, 25-foot long, waist-deep rocky trench to discuss strategy and appoint the "general' who would lead them into "battle.'

"Intentional debris' is haphazardly strewn around the surrounding "scarred' battlefield: a couple hundred red bricks caked with crumbling mortar, large chunks of concrete, an array of broken tree branches, pieces of bark and mud. Lots of mucky, wet mud. This man-made mud, courtesy of volunteer firefighter Kevin Campbell's frequent drenching from a nearby fire tanker truck containing 1,000 gallons of water, was intended to keep participating students wet, uncomfortable and even a bit cold - all for the sake of learning.

This is not a typical day for Mount Madonna School (MMS) students, but it was one that the participating high school sophomores, juniors and even a few seniors  - along with MMS high school history teacher Matt Meachen - had anticipated for some time - since Meachen first introduced this hands-on activity in 2012.

(Photos General) MM_History4.jpgThe students were participating in a WWl trench warfare simulation, designed to introduce them, albeit in a scaled-down, controlled fashion to the difficult physical and mental conditions faced by troops in WWI.

"It is one thing to read, write and discuss trench warfare and World War I," explained Meachen. "It is another to show pictures and video. But for these kids who are lucky enough to not be immersed in real warfare, the kinesthetic piece is important. The methods for scoring and winning each round are supposed to be challenging - both physically and mentally. The simulation is not meant to duplicate human suffering or glorify violence, but instead to give students a taste of what was required of these men, and hopefully in a fun and memorable way, bumps, bruises and all."

Representing the American forces are the eleventh grade students, who are currently studying WWl in history class. They engage with the upper hand; they participated as sophomores last year, and have a sense of what they are in for, what works, and what will be more difficult.  

The German forces are represented by the sophomore class - "newbies' to the activity, although a few came to watch from the sidelines the previous year. Judging from some of these students' facial expressions and whispered comments it's clear, however, that the concept of simulating a battle in such a down and dirty - and uncomfortable - way has taken them well out of their comfort zones. In history, the sophomores are now learning about the American Revolution, and it won't be until they are juniors that they will analyze and discuss "the war to end all wars.'

"While the tenth graders are getting this immersion and introduction before learning about this war in class, it really works," Meachen explained. "When we get to this topic next year, I won't need to spend time on helping them understand why the trenches and this type of warfare were abandoned after just one war. Due in large part to this hands-on experience, they'll already get it. If I can get them to feel the emotions imbedded in this activity, then they are more likely to remember what they learned over a longer period of time."

(Photos General) MM_History5.jpgLike a commanding officer briefing his troops, Meachen addressed students before the battle begins.

"There is honor in abiding by the rules of engagement," he said. "First, there is a chain of command. Like it or not, you must obey your commanding officer. No arguing. This is not the "let's talk about it at lunch kind of thing'. Equally as important for this type of warfare is your trench integrity. You need to uphold and defend its infrastructure. Without it, you will fail."

He runs down a list of scenarios and rules about how each timed round will be scored. Teams will be awarded points for various actions, including the "live capture' of an opponent as well as for casualties.

"POWs are a form of currency in war," said Meachen. "They are good leverage and worth more than a casualty."

Meachen has a new added a new "challenge' to the activity, a battlefield "medi-vac rescue.' Using only a supplied tarp, some rope, their own muscles and ingenuity, four students on each team will construct "gurneys' and transport a "wounded' comrade from the difficult terrain of the battlefield to the relative safety of the team's trench.

"Remember," Meachen reminded as he looked around at his students, "time is your worst enemy. Imagine that your wounded soldier has a compound fracture. You need to be careful and get them back to the trench. Otherwise they will "die' of infection or shock. A successful mission will earn your side 3 points."

It's time. Meachen dismisses the students to head to the battle site, located a short walk from their classroom in the forest. There they'll have a few minutes to shore up their trench defenses, select officers and strategize. Before heading over himself, Meachen takes a few minutes to consult with a dozen senior students who enjoyed the activity last year as juniors, and have received permission to participate again. He divides them into two groups, and assigns each group to support a side.

(Photos General) MM_History2_GirlsMud.jpgNearby, the voices emanating from the battle site sound deceivingly upbeat. Mount Madonna School's entire high school is 65 students, and everyone knows one another. Camaraderie is strong and personal. For anyone listening in, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine you'd stumbled upon a group of friends camping together in the woods. That, however, is about to change.

"Ten minute warning," shouted Meachen as the students scrambled to complete their preparations.

"Let's get some hands on this log, folks," yelled senior Curtis Clausen, as he grabbed one end of a large log to leverage it into place. His voice assumed a coarser, authoritative tone, that sounded less "teenager' and more "officer' - which suited him well, as the sophomore students had selected him as their general. "Let's make this trench impenetrable. We need to shore this up or we're going down - and that is not acceptable!

 "Are you ready? Are you getting psyched?" Clausen asked loudly. "If you are in my platoon, I hold you to the utmost standard! We don't want any resource left untapped."

Suddenly a handful of eleventh grade girls break in a soulful rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner." As they hit the final notes, their entire platoon chants "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!" The shrill sound of the tanker truck's horn signals the start of the battle.    

A couple minutes into the action, the first casualty emerges.

"I got hit directly in the foot with an artillery round," explained sophomore Cameron Bess. "I'm out, that was quick." Soon thereafter sophomore Nathan Burgess joined an increasing number of "casualties' on the sidelines.

(Photos General) MM_History6.jpg"We were closing in on someone who was sneaking up from behind," he explained. "As I lobbed my water balloon - and missed - he got me."

The 'battle' picks up in intensity and students' tension visibly increases: water rains down, strategies fall apart, and the number of casualties (mostly Germans) piles up. Voices communicate greater anxiety as the students get into their roles.

"I'm wounded," called out senior Soul Kerr, as he hit the ground to await rescue.

"Get him a medic!" responded sophomore Sophie Ortiz, in an urgent voice.

Nearby a "casualty' complained aloud abut the "unfairness" of another troop not observing the rules.

"Well, that's what you get sometimes in war - cowardice," answered a bystander who overhead the exchange. "War is not fair."

The end of the round is called before time is up, as the decimated German forces had only a few soldiers still standing and their casualties outnumbered that of the Americans by about 3 to 1.

Meachen stepped forward and addressed the whole group.

"Some of you aren't really thinking about what you're doing, you're just randomly, arbitrarily taking action, and for most it's not paying off. Remember, if this was WWI, you'd have been in the trench, possibly for weeks or months. Maintain your trench integrity. It's primo real estate, and without it, you'd sometimes be dead in a few hours.

"In real life this was a close war. For the students portraying the Germans, you need to make adjustments and see if you can improve your strategy."

It's unclear how much Meachen's suggestion really sinks in. While round two sees some regrouping - the younger students now have some idea of how this exercise can be played and won or lost - only about a third of the team gather to discuss a strategy, while the rest simply stand and wait for the next round to begin.  

"This time we're definitely a lot more strategic with how we use our ammunition and with our placement of people," noted junior Rami Walker. "It definitely helped that we did this last year. It's easy to think that this war was just "clean' - that it was just "a winner' and "a loser.' But as I participate and really get into it, I can better understand that there's a lot of "gray' area and it's much more complicated to know who the winner is and who the loser is. In the real war, and in our activity, both sides lost a lot."

Sophomore Tyler Sullens, who watched some of the activity from the side lines last year, echoed a sentiment shared by soldiers across time, continents and battles: "The hardest thing is sometimes you just have to follow orders that you don't agree with."

(Photos General) MM_History3.jpg"I really want to develop a deeper understanding and respect for the sacrifices that soldiers, most of whom are not much older than our students, make on a daily basis," commented Campbell. "War is so overwhelmingly glorified in our popular culture - think Call of Duty video games - that I think more exposure to the real "conditions" of war that we can provide our kids, the more they can develop a healthy and perhaps more nuanced understanding of what war is. This will help them become better voters and citizens.

"Play is for experience and learning.  This is the real value of hands-on activities such as this trench warfare simulation. It's important to employ experiential learning whenever possible. This engages students in active, sensory learning and helps students of all learning modalities approach the content. It also creates linkages, or transfer, between a multiplicity of settings, giving students and opportunity to employ their kinesthetic, interpersonal, intra-personal, and strategic thinking."

"Participating in an activity like this gives students one aspect of what battle could be like - even on a cool sunny day in Watsonville," remarked onlooker Gail McCredie, the mother of one participant. "The kids are wet and cold and uncomfortable," she noted. "And I think Matt [Meachen] is quick to remind them to consider, "yes, and what if you were going to bed like that...for days on end.' I think this experience gives them a perspective they wouldn't otherwise get, if they weren't so hands-on."

 

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  A Secret Santa gift circle is a great way to stay in-budget for the holidays.

(Holidays) Christmas_SecretSanta2.jpgFor anyone who's not familiar, a gift circle (often called a Secret Santa) is where everyone involved writes their names on slips of paper, and then each person draws a name randomly and buys a present only for that person.  So, each person in the circle gets one present.  Because you're only spending money on one present, you can afford to spend a little more than usual on it.  It's helpful to set a maximum or target spending amount so that people gives gifts that are roughly equal in value- depending on the culture and spending power of the group, a max limit of anywhere from $5 to $100 could be appropriate.

 

(Photos General) VivaGravatar.jpgMy husband's family used to do the traditional gift-giving scenario for Christmas: everyone bought gifts for everyone.  It was fun to give and get lots of presents, but it was also expensive! One year someone broached the idea of doing a Secret Santa gift circle instead, where we would each write our name on a piece of paper, put the names into a hat, and then draw names to determine who would buy for who.  We set the limit per gift at $40.  Originally we drew names at Thanksgiving, though for shopping convenience we've now moved the name-picking date closer to Labor Day.    Holiday shopping is so much less stressful now- we have fewer people to shop for, and a set spending limit for the gift circle (it's now $50 per gift).  It's super fun to show up at our family gathering with our secret gifts, waiting to surprise our gift recipient.

You can suggest a gift circle in lieu of gift exchanges at your work place, for each side of your family, and for groups of friends.

Are you a part of any gift circles for the holidays?  If not, do you plan to start one this year?

Viva Harris specializes in finding ways to both be frugal and have fun! Follow Viva at the Daily Citron.

 

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  Suki: Enter the Big Girl

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I just gave away my daughter's play kitchen. This may not sound very monumental, but in our house, it's huge. She's about to turn 11. The play kitchen is the correct height for a 3-year-old.

A few years ago, I first broached the idea that if she got rid of it, she might have room for something else in its place...something she'd actually use.

"But I love my kitchen!" she exclaimed. OK, I thought, she's not ready yet.

Some time later, the subject came up again. She set her face in one of those stern looks that signals no room for bargaining.

"OK," she said. "But only if I can sell it for $100." ... Read more! >>>

 

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  This Week

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Submit your event!


Holiday Events!

 

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School Corner

 

Gateway School K-8 Open House 12/5

 

MakersFactory, Homeschool Club 12/2-16

 

Monte Vista 6-12, Open House & Curriculum Fair 12/8

 

Santa Cruz Waldorf K-8,  Waldorf Alive! A Walk Through the Grades 12/11

 

Mount Madonna Pre-12, Disney's Aladdin Jr 12/14-15

 

Mount Madonna Pre-12, Campus Tour 12/17

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Holiday Break Camps & Special Workshops

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West Performing Arts
Camps

 

The Art Factory
Holiday Gift Making
Winter Break Camps

 

Junebug's Gym
Winter Camp

 

Santa Cruz County
Parks & Rec
Winter Camp

 

MakersFactory
Winter Camp

 

Santa Cruz Soccer
Winter Camp

 

Santa Cruz Gymnastics


Catalyst Soccer
Futsol Fun Winter Camp

 

Gymnastics Learning Center Camp Flip

 

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December 14
11am - 3pm

Holiday Fairs, Events and Fun!

 

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Carriage Rides Downtown Santa Cruz

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Finding Beach Treasures

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Vasona Lake Park lights

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Roaring Camp Tree Walk

All Holiday Events are in the Calendar!

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 Family Day: Sharks - Secrets Revealed

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Camp SeaLab
Family Day with Camp SEA Lab: Sharks!
Date: 12/07/2013 from 10:00am to 3:00pm
Ages: 8 and up Admission Fees: $10
Special Instructions: no cost for Friends of Camp SEA Lab Members

Join other enthusiastic shark lovers for a day dedicated to learning about sharks, outside AND in. We'll learn about the these under-loved fish through a series of games, activities, crafts, and a guided dissection suitable for ages 8 and up!

Registration required by December 5, 2013. Limited to first 30 participants (children & adults). Register here: https://www.z2systems.com/np/clients/campsealab/eventRegistration.jsp?event=383


Location: Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville Map
Phone: (831) 582-3681 •website Watsonville

Experiencing History
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Jingle Bell Rock 5K
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Toys for Tots
Date: 12/11/2016 at 9:00am
Details: 5K Walk/Run and 1K for Kids to Benefit Toys for Tots
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Capitola Village Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting
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  Capitola Village Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting
Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce and Capitola Village
Date: 12/03/2016 from 2:00pm to 5:30pm
Ages: All Ages
Details: Join us forChristmas festivities!
Special Instructions: Meet at the Christmas Tree in Capitola Village at Capitola & Stockton Ave.
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Lighted Boat Parade
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  Lighted Boat Parade
Santa Cruz Harbor
Date: 12/03/2016 from 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Ages: All
Details: 50+ beautifully-decorated power and sailboats parading through the Santa Cruz Harbor
City: Santa Cruz Phone: (831)425-0690 view all details >>
     
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Ice Skating at Circle of Palms
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  Ice Skating at Circle of Palms
San Jose Downtown
Date: Every day (Nov 16-Jan 16)
Details: Skaters never tire of circling, twirling and gliding beneath 32 palms that stand majestic by day and twinkle by night
City: San Jose Phone: (408) 291-0525 view all details >>
     
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