For students from Wayland High School, hearing veteran and Shillman House resident Bob Neidich talk about what it was like to go directly from high school into the service during WWII was a revelation. For Bob, a member of our veterans group, it was a welcome opportunity to share his story.
When he decided to enlist in the Navy, Bob was in the same position as the students he now teaches–starting to look at colleges, and worrying what his parents would think about his choices. Having this in common makes his tales of hedgehogs, sextants, Doppler, and the Pacific Islands more relatable for the students, but no less remarkable. And thanks to a partnership with the International Museum of World War II in Natick, many other classes will have the chance to learn from Bob and his fellow Shillman House veterans too.
We are always looking for intergenerational program opportunities, and last winter our team approached the museum’s educational director about inviting our vets in to work with visiting high school groups. Soon after that initial conversation, we organized a Veterans Group trip to the museum. Everyone found the exhibits and artifacts engaging, and some shared their reflections with another group of museum-goers, who turned out to be high school teachers!
The teachers were enthralled. They asked lots of questions and encouraged our veterans to tell stories about their experiences in the war. By the end of the trip, our group had an invitation to Millis High School, and both we and the museum staff were convinced that our idea of working with high school visitors to the museum was a good one.
Since then, our Veterans Group has become a regular part of the museum’s curriculum, and Bob is in demand. In addition to working directly with students like the group from Wayland High, he recently took part in the museum’s three-day conference for high school teachers. Participants learned about the different aspects and theaters of the war and created lesson plans to bring back to their classrooms. They all said that having Bob tell his personal story made the training really hit home.
Soon, Bob’s story–along with those of five other WWII veterans from Shillman House–will be online for an even wider audience to learn from. We are working with a local videographer on a Living History project, and we can’t wait to share the finished product with you. Keep an eye out for it later this fall, and in the meantime, consider making a visit to the WWII Museum. Its mission is to “have people gain a sense of direct contact with the World War II generation,” and we think you’ll agree that they’ve succeeded.