Fredericton middle school students write biographies of WW 1 soldiers

A group of students at George Street Middle School can now consider themselves historians. Students wrote biographies on the first 52 of the 106 Great War names listed on the New Brunswick Provincial Cenotaph.

'They know more about these individuals than perhaps family themselves know'

The biographies on display at George Street Middle School reflect the enormity of the loss of life during WW l. (Philip Drost/CBC News)

A group of students at George Street Middle School received a history lesson they will not soon forget when they wrote biographies of the first 52 of the 106 Great War names listed on the New Brunswick Provincial Cenotaph.

"They're the historians. They're the authors," said James Rowinski, a teacher at the school. 

"They know more about these individuals than perhaps family themselves know, and they really took ownership and have done a fantastic job," he said.

It was amazing to know that these people sacrificed what they did, but it was also really sad when you had to find out how they died.- Rachel Boucher

The students, in Grade 7 and 8, were given the soldiers' service files from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and had to take it from there.

Some students, such as Rachel Boucher, went so far as to locate and interview relatives of these men.

"It was kind of nerve-racking because I was really nervous, but it was really interesting to hear the stories they had and [the stories I had]. They found out more and I found out more," said Boucher.

She wrote her biography on David William Duffie, who grew up on Aberdeen Street in Fredericton. Boucher said it was interesting to learn about someone who grew up so close to her school.

"I enjoyed getting to know all the different people, learning how many different people in Fredericton actually signed up to go war," said Boucher.

"It was amazing to know that these people sacrificed what they did, but it was also really sad when you had to find out how they died."

Rowinski said he was happy with how the project turned out and hopes it will continue in the years to come, perhaps moving on to biographies of WW ll soldiers.

"The kids have really done a great job piecing together a narrative, a story, about who these gentlemen were from the Great War and really humanizing who they were," he said.

"It really allows them also to look at their community a little bit differently, and also encourages them to think differently about their own families and their own histories."

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.

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