Lake Middle School students duck and cover
They marched in formation into a dark room, to the sound of artillery fire and machine guns.
"Take cover!" social studies teacher Prudence Lamar shouted. "You're under heavy fire!"
One group of seventh-graders took cover behind a row of chairs that represented the German trenches.
Another group hunkered down on the Allied side.
Wednesday, one room at Lake Middle School became a war zone as students learned about trench warfare in World War I.
Lamar, a retired Marine, created the immersive lesson to drive home the abject fear and suffering endured by soldiers during the 1916 the Battle of Verdun in France.
She read excerpts from Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front," a graphic account of the horrors of the Great War, while images of a movie based on the novel flashed on a whiteboard.
The students donned cloth respirator masks during a simulated mustard gas attack, as Lamar read the novel's description of soldiers coughing up lung tissue. At another point in the book, the soldiers fought off rats that tried to eat their meager rations. An animatronic rat skittered about the classroom floor.
Another lesson dealt with the moral dilemma of kill or be killed. Throughout the proceedings, Lamar posed study questions for the students to consider:
"The first night out, did you expect to die?"
"Suppose a fellow soldier died next to you. What would you do with the body?"
"There has been constant shelling for three days. How does your head feel?"
Hannah Miley, 13, said the lesson made an impression. "My dad's in the Air Force," she said. "It really made me appreciate what other people do."