On December 22, 2015 Arete PBL Academy at Neenah High School had their assessment for the World War I unit. Despite extensive studying in the days leading up to the assessment, students were excited and nervous. Except that instead of taking a written test, their assessment was in the form of a play...performed for the entire freshman class of 500. Then, an hour later, they performed another for their parents, school administrators, school board members and upper class-men.
In a two week period, the play, entitled Christmas in the Trenches, was conceived, written, directed and performed by Kassidy Schmidt and the 10th grade students in the Academy. In addition to the creation of the play, the set was also built by students.
As I look back on the year and a half of our program, this was, by far, our greatest success. We had students who, in September 2014, would barely speak above a whisper, stand on stage and perform entire memorized scenes.
Our kick off event was to attend the professional production of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 at the Appleton Performing Arts Center. After seeing the professional production, students learned about World War I scientists, poets, military and national leaders, events, inventions, discoveries. They displayed their learning by writing scenes including the most important aspects of the war.
Throughout the two weeks of working on the production, many students were exposed to a world they had not previously and likely never would have experienced had it not been for the play. It was exhilarating, exhausting but ultimately a source of pride for everyone involved in the production.