Torrens’ APUSH classes re-enact World War I with socks

February 8, 2012 — by McKenna Galvin and Jennifer Jin
Photo by Salmaan Javed

Juniors in Matt Torrens' AP History class take part in a sock war simulation on Feb. 2. The sock war is meant to show the close-in fighting that occurred with trench warfare in World War I.

“Hey! I killed you!”

“Watch out!”

“Give me a sock!”

Any person walking by history teacher Matt Torrens’ class on Feb. 2 or 3 may have encountered a scene that was far from ordinary. But what appeared to be utter chaos was actually a simulation of trench warfare in World War I.

Torrens hosted his first annual “sock war” about 10 years ago when he started teaching summer school.

“I had these students for four hours a day, so I wanted to do something that would make the class interesting and break up the lectures,” Torrens said.

In each of his three AP United States History classes, two sides of the class fought against each other using socks as ammunition. Students stacked desks together to serve as trenches in which they could hide.

“It was a fun way to learn about World War I and trench warfare,” junior Nandita Sampath said.

The activity was split into multiple parts to simulate various stages of trench warfare. To reproduce tank warfare, one student from each side got in a “tank” (a desk with a blanket over it) and attempted to break the wall of desks on the other side of the classroom. To simulate the poisonous gases used in the war, students brought old, smelly socks and threw them at the other side. Anyone within a yard of the thrown “gas bombs” was announced “dead.”

“The tank round was really fun,” junior Henry Shen said. “The whole room went into total chaos with all the desks falling, people yelling, and stinky socks being thrown around.”
Students in some classes became very invested in the game.

“Watching [junior] Jason [Chen] get really into it and tear down a barricade of chairs like a relentless tornado pummeling everything in its path was one of my favorite parts,” junior Michael Shang said. “The look on [junior] Priya [Nookala]'s face as this massive beast charged at her desk was priceless.”

In addition, Torrens provided each class with two pies from Marie Callender’s, which each side had to hide in its trenches away from the other side.

“Our strategy to steal the pie was to play defense until the opponents’ available sock ammo dwindled,” Shang said. “We then charged at them hoping that they would be overwhelmed by the number of people.”

At the end of the simulation, students were able to eat the pies, which included apple pie and berry pie.

“The pie was delicious,” junior Caroline Chou said. “It was a great way to end the period.”

 

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