Abbie Gore and Maureen Kelly, two history teachers at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, worked with their students and community partners to organize a breakfast and oral history project with over 100 local World War II and Korean War veterans on December 3, 2014. These two teachers are part of the Park for Every Classroom program, a teacher professional development program Essex Heritage offered in partnership with National Park Service that encourages the use of local historic and natural environments for “real world” learning and service.
The breakfast event was quite a success as Peabody Junior Rotary high school students really connected with the veterans that they were interviewing -- asking them questions about their community’s reactions to war and deployment. Many of the veterans brought service and personal pictures to share, and were openly moved by the reactions of the students. Several other groups at the high school made the event possible: The Air Force Junior ROTC served as escorts from the arrival area to the cafeteria, the Culinary Arts classes provided the pancake breakfast, the PVMHS Chorale performed, and the Air Force JROTC rifle drill team gave a demonstration.
Moving forward with their project, students will archive their interviews on a website and will create a display at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School to document the veterans’ experiences for the community. The teachers have been so pleased with the results of the project so far that they plan to continue it in subsequent school years, inviting veterans from more recent wars to tell their stories.