NC-to-Normandy: Educational Resources for Service-Learning and Community Engagement

North Carolina to NormandySTART DATE: May 2015

PROJECT SUMMARY:  Nearly seven decades after landing on the Normandy coastline on June 6, 1944 with the aim to liberate France, two veterans returned to those same beaches. Rather than fighting the entrenched German army, these two 92-year old men found nearly 100,000 waving flags and clapping hands of support. As world leaders took the stage to articulate their appreciation and awe at the achievement of that day, both men sat in wheelchairs squeezing the hands of current servicemen, sharing tokens of faith and thanks, and praising the next generation of young people.

The journey from North Carolina to Normandy was the result of 10 months of hard work and dedication by four high school students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. With no school or parent support, these students created, organized, and implemented a plan of action to identify local veterans of D-Day and support their return to join the 70th anniversary commemoration in June, 2014. Their efforts represented an authentic service-learning initiative, one with clear academic and school implications.

In partnership with the School of Education at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, the decisions, events, and impact of this project were documented in several ways. Research was conducted to identify the key elements of service-learning on display by students, sponsors, and community. Simultaneously, the in-service teachers identified and annotated the instructional applications of the experience. As a result, we now have a wealth of resources to be made available to other teachers and schools that illustrate best practice ways to achieve the following goals:

  • To create authentic community engagement projects that connect schools, businesses, and veterans
  • To teach the impact and influence of key events in military history
  • To provide model of resources for teachers, schools, and students to commemorate the sacrifices of America’s servicemen

With an emphasis on experiential learning, Mink’ED is producing open education resources based on this project, including:

  1. Complete oral history interviews with the two NC-to-Normandy veterans
  2. Create a short documentary that illustrates the project using media-rich content
  3. Design classroom-ready activities and approaches to service-learning, community engagement, and military history to support documentary
  4. Provide professional development training on the use of these resources with a focus on creating new initiatives

FUNDING & SUPPORT: Funding has been provided by the Oak Foundation.

Team Biosketches