Camp helps youth understand history of World War II

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By John Barnhart

Making education fun is the National D-Day Memorial Foundation's approach to teaching youth about World War II.

Every summer the Foundation holds a day camp, lasting three days, at the D-Day Memorial. Youth have an opportunity to don period attire, eat treats made from World War II recipe books and, at the end, share what they've learned with their parents. The camp can take up to 40 children and it filled up this year, with a waiting list, according to April Cheek, the Foundation's education director.

Youth from previous years return, so the camp varies the features. Activities this year included learning about propaganda posters and why they were important. These were posters that urged people to conserve, encouraged women to seek jobs in defense industries, and reminded people that loose lips sink ships.

The campers also made their own poster, with their faces in it.

"We studied a lot about the home front," Cheek said.

This study was hands-on. The treats the campers got were made from recipes that did without items that were rationed. One day, they got brownies made without sugar or eggs. The campers liked them. Many sugarless recipes used honey or fruit to sweeten them.

The youth went on a reconnaissance mission to illustrate the importance of gathering information. The mission involved going about the Memorial and finding clues, which led to others.

The 29th Division Living History group paid a visit. These men reenact the 29th Division as it looked in World War II. They came equipped as soldiers ready to land on Omaha Beach with actual period equipment and uniforms or precise replicas of them. Campers had their photos taken decked out in some of the gear and found out how heavy an M1 Garand was.

They also made a toy that first made its appearance during World War II ? Silly Putty. This was Megan Wingfield's idea. Wingfield, a member of the Foundation's staff, found directions for making it in a book of projects and oversaw the effort, which in some cases actually yielded the real thing.

"I'm still afraid to reach my hand in these bags," she commented, eying a collection of plastic bags, each filled with unusually colored material. The campers chose their own colors for their Silly Putty.

"Some of these are quite interesting," Wingfield noted. "We're not sure if these are living organisms."