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CLASS PROJECT: Students Share Veterans’ Stories

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Middle school students are learning an important lesson about those who have served our country. Students typically honor former service members on Veterans Day in November. But, teens at one school spent more time on the subject.

Look around any table with teens, and you'll see phones, tablets and laptops. Student McKenna Horstmann says, "It came pretty naturally to us because we're around technology so much this generation."

Information is at every student’s fingertips. But, it's not always easy to get them interested. Student Ellie Konfrst says, "I probably would have never learned any of this if I hadn't been able to do this project."

So, last year students in Dale Erickson's communication's class at Merrill Middle School used their technology to learn an important lesson. Erickson says the goal of the project was, "To make young people interested, appreciative and aware of the sacrifices our Iowa veterans made for us."

About six hundred seventh and eighth graders picked an Iowa veteran to research. Konfrst says, "I learned about my grandfather Mike Glover." Student Intisar Becic says, "I did John Phillips." Horstmann says, "My veteran who was Donald Horstmann, who was actually my grandfather."

No essays were involved in this project. Instead, some students used a program called voice thread to share a video. Others used an app that told the veteran's story through a comic book. Konfrst says, "It was a way to kind of tell the story a little more interesting than just writing it down."

And, they all used an online architectural app called sketch-up to create a potential museum display for the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge. Becic says, "Come up with a way to share information about veterans and to give them recognition they don't normally get from people because they really do so much for us and they don't really get a lot of credit for it and people take it for granted."

The students also gave speeches to the museum's director, saying why she should choose their design. Museum Director Sherrie Colbert says, "They had to stand in front of me and the whole class and they had to persuade me why their idea was different than the rest and why it was interesting to teenagers or younger people."

One of the student's designs will actually be in the museum. Rabsa Naseer came up with the idea to show the reflection of a submarine in front of the conning tower. Naseer says, "On the floor, there would be an ocean print, but to save space there would be a submarine printed on the floor, instead of taking up a lot of space in the actual room."

That design should be installed in a year or two. The students' speeches are currently running on a video in the lobby. You can see it anytime the museum is open, which is Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 four p.m. Admission is free.