Sunday, October 30, 2011

An Unexpected but Very Enjoyable Detour

Our class is reading Dear America: The Diary of Piper Davis: The Fences Between Us another wonderful book written by Kirby Larson. The story is set in Seattle in 1941, during the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the war that followed. It is written from the perspective of Piper Davis, a middle school girl, whose brother Hank is a sailor fighting in the war and whose father is the pastor of a Japanese American church. She adores her brother and is very concerned about his safety. At the same time, she is deeply troubled by the internment of her friends and neighbors, many of whom are like family.

We are noticing and discussing many similarities between our current reality in the United States and the events that occurred during World War II. This led to several questions from students about the nature of war, the history of war, and about the world. I have to admit, this was the kind of moment I long for as a teacher. It is my hope each day, that students will come through that door with questions, energy, and a desire to learn. I am so thankful that these things were sparked by the well-written book we are reading.

It was the kind of teaching and learning moment that I have rarely experienced. One question led to another question. The answers to a question led to even more questions. I shared that my answers to the questions were not "THE" answers to their questions; they were merely my answers, my perspective. I invited students to share their own thoughts and beliefs as well. We stopped reading the book and moved to the class library. We spent over an hour questionning and discussing. Many students didn't even want to go to recess. It was truly special. Thank you students and thank you, Kirby Larson for your thoughtful book about a very difficult time in our history.

Some of the students' questions:
  • Who started wars?
  • What is the oldest war?
  • Why do we have wars?
  • Why did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor? 
  • What is the difference between world war and civil war?
  • I thought the Civil War was in the United States?
  • What is a revolutionary war?
  • Who were the Nazis?
  • Why didn't they like Jewish people?
  • What was the worst war?
This is just a small sampling of the students' very thoughtful questions that memorable day. It was WAY more than we could hope to answer in one afternoon. I hope the questions continue to be asked and discussed at home and in the years ahead. I am 40, and I am still looking for the answers to many of these same questions.

Please comment! What was something you learned that day? Is there a question you wanted to know more about? Did you go home and discuss these things with your adults or did you research something we discussed? What questions do you have about war?