Each fall, the sixth grade students read the historical fiction novel Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn. Narrated through the lives of a group of sixth graders who are struggling to understand the war and their role as youngsters, the novel depicts life on the home front during WWII. In conjunction with the book, the students participate in many interdisciplinary activities that enables them to learn about what it felt like to live during such a volatile time in history and how much of a role the U.S. citizens played in the war effort whether they were fighting overseas, collecting scrap metal, working in the factories, or planting victory gardens.
The unit culminates with a WWII Day, which usually begins with a speaker. For the past few years, we have had the fortune to host Irene Skolnick, Holocaust survivor and author of In the Shadow of Majdanek, to speak about her family's escape from Nazi occupied Poland. Then students rotate from room to room to take part in wartime activities. A favorite has always been trying Spam and Ovaltine. The day ends with a WWII canteen, which resembles a USO canteen, where soldiers would go to relax and forget about the war for a night.
In 2015, students attended a field trip to the Heinz History Center for the traveling WWII exhibit "We Can Do It!" and a production of The Diary of Anne Frank at Pittsburgh's O'Reilly Theater.