Students Get Hands-on Experience of Life in the Trenches

November 1, 2014
A student from Brookfield High School examines the contents of a Supply Line First Word War Discovery Box

A student from Brookfield High School examines the contents of a Supply Line First Word War Discovery Box
© Canadian War Museum, CWM2014-0057-0001-Dm

How do you make a war that began a century ago vivid and visceral to today’s Canadian students? The Canadian War Museum has an answer: You bring history tangibly into the classroom.

The donor-funded Supply Line project has created 25 Discovery Boxes, each of which allows students to interact with authentic and reproduction First World War artifacts such as barbed wire, shrapnel bullets, a trench periscope, brass cartridge cases, a steel helmet and a soldier’s uniform jacket.

“We wanted students to really feel and understand what it was like to be a Canadian soldier in the trenches overseas,” explains Caroline Dromaguet, Manager of Exhibitions, Creative Development and Learning at the Canadian War Museum.

Since September, teachers across Canada have been able to reserve one of the 25 Supply Line First World War Discovery Boxes for a period of two weeks at no cost. The artifacts are supported by curriculum linked lesson plans, detailed backgrounders on each object, artifact labels for creating classroom displays, and photographs showing most of the artifacts in use during the First World War.

An Unforgettable Experience

Supply Line is funded by the Museum’s many loyal donors, including donors to the Operation Veteran program, founded in 2009 by Dr. Paul Kavanagh to honour veterans and raise awareness of their sacrifices. Operation Veteran inspired four Montréal schools – Loyola High School, Sacred Heart School of Montreal, Queen of Angels Academy and Villa Maria – to coordinate a special walkathon, which raised $35,000.

I liked having the opportunity to see, try on and touch these artifacts because it put the idea of the war into perspective and it gave us a way to put ourselves in the soldier’s place”.
– Alice, Centre Wellington District High School

The Iron Harvest

In parts of Europe, First World War artifacts resurface on battlefields in vast quantities every spring as a result of geological movements. In 2013, this “iron harvest” unearthed 160 tonnes of munitions, from bullets to 15-inch naval gun shells, just from the area around Ypres, Belgium.

The barbed wire included in the Supply Line Discovery Boxes was supplied by Stijn Butaye from Belgium whose family farm had been a battlefield. He has opened a small museum of military debris that has come up in his fields.

“Supply Line gives Canadian students their first hands-on experience with First World War artifacts,” says Caroline Dromaguet. “With no living First World War veterans, Supply Line keeps their memories alive.”

If you’d like to donate to help sustain and expand Supply Line, please contact the Development Branch at 1-800-256-6031, or make an online donation by selecting Operation Veteran at