What does it mean to be a “volunteer”? How did U.S. American volunteers engage in the European war zone before the arrival of the United States military overseas in 1917? In these lesson plans, designed for secondary school classrooms, students will learn about the critical role of U.S. American volunteers in World War I and how volunteer organizations shaped the way the war was experienced by thousands. They will examine brief biographies of individual volunteers, considering the broad historical factors and the particular life experiences that motivated men and women to serve prior to the arrival of the United States military overseas in 1917. They will utilize primary sources (photographs and wartime letters) to gain a first-hand perspective on the volunteer experience.
The topic is divided into four interrelated lesson plans that could be taught independently or as a whole depending upon grade level, instructional objectives, and time:
- Activator, Why Do People Volunteer?
- Lesson I, Deciding to Volunteer During World War I: A Primary Source Analysis
- Lesson II, Learning the Diverse Life Stories of World War I Volunteers Through Mini-Biographies
- Extension Activity, Exploring an Archival Letter Colletion