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Education News from the National WWI Museum and Memorial


Innovations of WWI

Industry and technology changed rapidly to accommodate the demands of the first global war. Propaganda, poison gas and telecommunications, all evolved during the war. This edition provides resources to explore just some of the developments that emerged from the conflict and explains how we still use these innovations today.

Trench War Stalemate

Trench warfare occurred before WWI, but it evolved significantly as seen in this virtual field trip through trench models. The stalemate was a unique problem to this specific portion of history. This lively lecture held in partnership with the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum features Dr. Nicholas Murray illustrating why and how. Please note: This lecture contains mild profanity. | Recommended Grade Levels: 9-12, Adult Learners; Format: Video

First aid parcel for front line use in World War I.

Modernizing Menses

After the U.S. entered the war in 1917, cellucotton wadding for surgical dressing was produced at a rate of 380 to 500 feet per minute for the frontline. Red Cross nurses, performing their duties regardless of the time of month, recognized the usefulness of wadding and began using it for other periodic practical applications. Learn more with this article from Smithsonian. | Recommended Grade Levels: 9‑12; Format: Article

Stereoscope card showing Austrian flamethrower captured in Italy, full description on back of card.

Stereoscope card showing Austrian flamethrower captured in Italy. Click the image to learn more about this card.

“In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane—the earth’s surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times as bloody as it was before…”

William Jennings Bryan, in his written final statement for the 1925 Scopes Trial, using recent advancements in warfare as an argument for why scientific theory such as evolution should be regulated in classrooms.

Censorship and “Persuasion”: The Committee for Public Information (CPI)

As George Creel described it, the CPI was “a plain publicity proposition, a vast enterprise in salesmanship, the world's greatest adventure in advertising.” After the U.S. declaration of war, it brought a swift shift for journalists as a new American committee provided both censorship and manipulation to the information received by the public. American Experience provides a 3-minute video and accompanying lesson plan. | Recommended Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12; Format: Primary Source, Video, Curriculum

I Want You For U.S. Army Uncle Sam Poster

This CPI sponsored poster by James Montgomery Flagg also created an “innovation” - an image for Uncle Sam, adapted from Flagg’s self-portrait, that would be used for generations to come. Explore more WWI posters, including those associated with CPI sponsorship and others from around the world, at Google Arts and Culture.  

Critical Communications

Amidst chaos and carnage, communication was critical to the war effort. New technologies addressed the need for speed and efficiency in sharing basic information. From the U.K. National Archives, this collection includes photographs and documents related to wartime telecommunications. | Recommended Grade Levels: 9-12; Format: Article

Put Your Best Fruit Forward

Why was the U.S. trying to corner the coconut market in 1918? Learn about this, the use of peach pits and other advancements of the “chemists’ war” and environmental history in this lecture by Dr. Gerard Fitzgerald. For a deeper look into the science, read Fitzgerald’s American Journal on Public Health article. | Recommended Grade Levels: 9-12, Adult Learners; Format: Video


Dazzle Camouflage illustration


Camouflage evolved during the Great War both on land and water. Swirling shapes, startling colors and abstract designs were used to create hypnotic “dazzle camouflage” design on ships to confuse the enemy at sea. Some questions to consider:

- Watch this 5-minute video from Vox. How does dazzle camouflage work to successfully prevent attack?

- Who created these camouflage designs? Certainly read this article, but also consider this “Hidden History” article by the National Archives.

- How might dazzle camouflage have continued to impact art movements in the 20th century?

ACTIVITY: Have students draw their own “Razzle Dazzle” camouflage on the outline of a ship. For older ages, have them research primary sources both dazzle designs and choose a ship outline from the Department of the Navy, Bureau of Construction and Repair.

The United States World War One Centennial Commission and the National WWI Museum and Memorial are dedicated to educating the public about the causes, events and consequences of World War I and we encourage the use of these resources to better understand the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. 

Partners from around the world participate in the Educator Resource Database, some of whom are highlighted in this newsletter.