Understanding Sacrifice: ABMCeducation.org and New Developments in Digital and Public History

Today, in honor of Veterans Day, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), in partnership with National History Day (NHD) and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM), released a free, online educational resource for middle and high school teachers and students across the country: ABMCeducation.org. Eighteen teachers from across the United States spent over a year studying, researching, and compiling materials for 21, multi-disciplinary lesson plans ranging from the home front to the war front during World War II (WWII). The journey culminated in a trip this past summer 2015 to six ABMC cemeteries from England to Germany, tracing the path taken by the Allies through Northern Europe from 1944 –1945 during World War II. These teachers developed a personal attachment to these campaigns through their research of a local fallen hero that they were then able to commemorate at their respective graves. Truly powerful.


This new source is particularly relevant for those of us interested in digital and public history and is timely for Theory and Method’s current discussion of the place and utility of biography in history, as the 22 fallen heroes and their stories are integrated into the lesson plans offered in the website. These personal stories, in conjunction with the broader battles and campaigns of the Allied advance into Northern Europe, allow students of history to experience the empathy that every public historian seeks to convey to make history tangible.

This program has a personal tie to the Villanova Graduate Program in History as well. The teachers were led by Lynne O’Hara (’05), an alumnus of this program. Lynne has spent the past few years working as Director of Programs for National History Day, an organization that sponsors an annual history fair (like the science fair, but for original history projects) for middle and high school students that culminates in a national contest at the University of Maryland, College Park each June. NHD also collaborates with educators across the country to provide professional development, lesson plans and other educational materials for today’s secondary teachers.

Currently, a new group of eighteen teachers are completing the same program, except they are studying, researching, and traveling to southern France and Italy next summer to understand the Mediterranean Theater during WWII. Amanda Reid-Cossentino (’10), another alumnus of this program, has been selected as one of the eighteen teachers chosen for this program out of 118 applicants. Amanda, along with next year’s cohort, will be researching local fallen heroes in this theater and creating multi-disciplinary lesson plans for the southern European and North African campaigns.

Please check out the range of subjects that the lesson plans in this new website offer, the eulogies for each fallen hero personally prepared by each teacher, and the ABMC cemeteries that played a pivotal role in the creation of these materials at ABMCeducation.org.


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