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Photo Essay Project Makes World War II Come Alive for Eighth-Graders

by Alan Carter

Students in my eighth-grade World History classes are creating photo essays during our unit on World War II. We started the project by viewing photo essays from The Atlantic and PBS on World War I as examples, discussing the power and importance of images when studying history. Students commented that seeing photos of things like trench warfare made the content come alive in a new way. Several students mentioned the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” 

The photo essays address the following topics on World War II: the Great Depression, fascism, appeasement, the European Theater, the Pacific Theater, the Holocaust, the Home Front, leaders, technology and the end of the war. For each topic, students find two relevant photos and write a paragraph explaining each photo’s contents, its relevance to the topic and its overall importance in WWII. Students use sources such as the National Archives, Library of Congress, BBC, and The Atlantic’s photo collection.

Here are some students’ comments about the project:

“This project is an eye-opening project for the horrific events of War World ll. I have seen a different perspective from different sources. I feel like my interest has grown for this topic.” — Sanya Firozvi ’24 (at left) 

“The photo essay project has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to experience WWII in a visual way rather than a typical style of learning in which you soley read about a topic. The photos immerse you in the topic at hand and provide you with an entire new perspective beneficial to everyone’s understanding of WWII.” — Kylie Scott ’24 (at left) 

“This project helps young students better understand our world. Learning about our history can help us better understand our future.” — Maya Agrawal ’24 (at center) 

“This project is very important because it has broadened my understanding of WWII and how to use technology to research.” — Francie Rogers ’24 (at left) 

“I love this project because I am learning a lot through finding these photos. I feel like I am finding great photos and really going into depth with them.” — Chloe Beatty ’24 (at left)

“This project is giving me a lot more insight about World War II, and I am learning a lot more facts about the war. This project is very fun and informational!” — Nyla Moore ’24 (at right) 

“This project is great because you get to learn all about WWII. You get to make a great product and see a lot of different pictures from that time period.” — Jeremy McGinnis ’24

“The photo essay project helps us to understand the World War II better. Reading about WWII is one thing, but seeing and relating pictures is another. By analyzing the picture, we use our prior knowledge to understand the meaning of the picture. Pictures can help us understand WWII on a whole different level.” — Hope Hauck ’24 (at left)

“This project really shows you what WWII looked like in the real world for the people who lived it. It gives us a greater appreciation for what your ancestors went through during this time.” — Anna Czito ’24 (at right) 

“The photo essay has been a new and creative way to learn and show what we have learned, in a different form rather than a test or quiz. I think this helps students to visualize what we are learning rather than just reading. It takes our knowledge to a deeper understanding of the topic.” — Jane McNeill ’24

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