"What was it like when there was a mortar attack?" asked a Washington Middle School student to Joe DiMaio, Jamestown Public Schools' Board of Education president.
"You always slept with your clothes on. If you heard the sirens you immediately got up and woke up anyone who was a heavy sleeper."
"Were you ever scared?"
Joe DiMaio, Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education president, speaks with students at Washington Middle School.
"Yes, I was. It is hard to explain how scary it was to hear the bombs but we had a job to do and we did it," DiMaio responded.
This is just one question DiMaio answered during a recent visit to Washington Middle School fifth and sixth grade ELA classes for Veteran's Day. DiMaio served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He brought photographs and scrapbooks, examples of Vietnamese money, displayed his medals, and also brought a recording of a mortar attack that he had from his time in Vietnam.
"I think anytime someone from the community can come into the classroom it is a plus," DiMaio said. "The students receive firsthand experiences instead of just reading it from a book and have an opportunity to ask questions. It is also important for the person giving the presentation because it helps tell the real story. Students learn in many different ways and this is certainly one of the tools that educators take advantage of. I think anytime you can make learning more real to the students, it has a better chance of sticking in their minds. It helps pass on information from generation to generation by someone who experienced it. It can make history and the questions history brings about more real."
The fifth and sixth grades social studies classes did a voting unit and they talked about the kinds of freedoms Americans receive by being a democracy and the sacrifices that our past and present soldiers risked for us to have these freedoms. The ELA teachers are focusing on active listening skills. To combine the two subjects, students were prepared with questions for Mr. DiMaio but also wrote down what they learned and any new questions they had from the presentation, which teachers responded to in class.
This the fourth year the teachers have done the exercise. It often inspires students to write thank-you notes and want to get more actively involved in supporting the military.
"Bringing in a real person, a primary source, to talk about his or her experiences helps the students make a connection with the topic and hopefully put it into their long-term memory," said teacher Sara Joly. "When a student can make a personal connection to the topic we find that they can more easily pull out relevant information when that topic is discussed."