World War II is a pivotal point in U.S. and world history. More than 70 years after it began, its effect around the globe remains profound. Among other effects, the war led to the creation of Israel and produced the atomic bomb. Today, it is one of the most studied conflicts in history and a common basis of large class projects. The scope and effect of the war make it an ideal subject, and students have a number of project ideas to choose from
A timeline offers a compelling look at the events that led up to the war and those that contributed to its size. Starting with the invasion of Poland in 1939, and continuing through the surrender of Japan in 1945, thousands of sources are available to draw from. To make the project visually interesting, include photos of battles, aftermath and include information about the effects the war had on people at home. Discuss rationing or women entering the work force, for example. Include examples of propaganda from both sides, who created it and why. It’s a fairly direct project, but it can be made visually interesting by the addition of these kinds of pieces.
2 Research Paper or Biography
Another fairly straightforward project is a research paper. This era provides a number of subjects to pull from, and is one of the most widely written about subjects in the world. Reliable sources are easy to find, and topics are diverse. Discuss the role of technology in the war, how it impacted the outcome and how the war may have ended without it. Look into why the United States hesitated to enter the conflict or which missteps the Germans took that led to losing the war. A more creative idea is to choose a world leader, military general or even a citizen of a country under siege and create a biography. More factual information will be available on leaders and military men, but a fictional citizen biography may be more compelling.
3 Art Project
A World War II art project can be a big undertaking, but is perhaps the most visually striking option. These projects can be on a small shoe box-sized scale or can be done on a much larger scale. This is where important historical moments can be recreated, and is almost guaranteed to engage peers in discussion. Recreate a well-known battle scene, a concentration camp or show a post-battle town square using papie -mâché. For more computer-based artists, illustrate battle lines or reconstruct the movement of different skirmishes across Europe and Japan. Depending on the project requirements, consider designing a set of propaganda posters. These posters and fliers were an integral part of morale boosting on both sides, and reprints of traditional pieces are widely available online. Consider creating pieces from a pro- or anti-war stance, or design for causes from an axis-power perspective.
4 Media Broadcast
Media broadcasts were a big part of World War II and worked to keep those at home updated about happenings on both fronts. Because TV was not available, print, radio and newsreels were the main sources of information. Students can create their own broadcast by selecting an important day in the war and report about it as if they are there. Report from the front lines of a battle, or relay to the United States the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the possibilities are vast and almost unending. These shows can be done live, or recorded and played for the class. Clips from actual broadcasts are widely available online, and may provide valuable information about journalistic style of the day.