What better way to get kids interested in history than providing the opportunity to help preserve it?
That was the idea when middle school children from Colonial Heights supported efforts to maintain World War I-era trenches July 26 at Fort Lee.
Amy Wood, archaeologist/collections manager at the post’s Regional Archaeological Curation Facility, is the caretaker for the more than six miles of the trenches located on the installation.
She welcomed five boys along with two adult counselors from the High Octeen Program to a portion of the trenches located near the installation’s HideAway Club and pet cemetery.
“Basically, we’re preserving a historic resource from natural and possibly manmade elements,” she said.
Under Wood’s supervision, they carefully installed fabric along the 5-foot-deep trench banks that will help improve their condition.
“Certain parts are eroding more than others,” said Wood, “so using this geo-fabric material, we hope to stabilize the banks from eroding and also to promote the growth of vegetation which will also help to stop the erosion.”
The boys, 11 and 12 year olds, moved about the banks easily, using mallets and pins to secure the fabric to the banks. They seemed to enjoy the hands-on activity in such a natural setting and had a total grasp of why they were doing it.
“I felt OK with it because I get to preserve something good,” said 12-year-old Nick Florence.
Florence and the others received a briefing about the trenches prior to arriving.
“We talked about what we were going to do, talked about the geo-fabric and we talked about the World War I trenches,” noting the history portion of the brief was given at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum.
“I asked each of them about what they learned at the museum and each of them remembered something,” said Wood.
At the end of the day, said Wood, it serves to impress upon them the importance of protecting historical resources.
“My goal is for them to learn more about preservation, how we implement here at Fort Lee and help them develop a mindset to safeguard the resources that might mean something to them or others.”
A group from the HOP youth activity visited Fort Lee three weeks ago and participated in a mock archaeological dig at the Curation Facility.
Their visits are part of a larger effort initiated by the post’s Quartermaster and U.S. Army Women’s museums to promote those facilities as cultural and academic resources.
The trenches were constructed sometime between 1917-18 to prepare American Soldiers for the battlefields of Europe. They are now federally protected landmarks under the Cultural Resources Program administered by the post’s Environmental Management Office.