Torrens’ class takes new approaches

March 19, 2009 — by Saniha Shankar

Sock War

Drivers going by Big Basin in downtown Saratoga two weeks ago saw a huge group of students who may have looked like tourists being led by a tour guide. It turned out history teacher Matt Torrens’ AP US history class was off to downtown Saratoga. The entire class walked at the beginning of class and stopped at the World War I monument near Starbucks. Once there, students listened to Torrens as he went through the history of how the war veterans named on the monument died. Students were surprised to learn that all of these people lived in Saratoga and went to war and were honored through this monument.

“I’ve never done anything like this before so it was really cool,” said junior Karen Wai. “School becomes a drag when you have to do the same thing over and over again, so it was nice to have a break and do something different.”

But that wasn’t the end of the interesting classroom activities in Torrens’ class. The following Friday the class engaged in a “huge sock” war to show the close proximity of fighting in World War I. The desks were all moved into two sides that became “trenches.” Students brought socks to throw at each other from different sides. If a student was hit with a sock, the student had to stand outside for the game for 60 seconds and come back in after. There were three rounds, each of which were four minutes long. For the last round, students were instructed to bring their dirty socks. The purpose of this was to learn about the horrible smell of dead bodies and gas weapons that made up the unpleasant smell of war. At the end, students shared the snacks brought by both sides.

“I believe that students learn the best when they have a balanced curriculum,” said Torrens. “It’s also just something that fits my personality because I like trying out new things.

Students could play three different roles. There were students who moved with a desk as a tank, there were air pilots who could go over to the other side and throw socks, and finally the normal soldiers. The object of the game was to go throw the middle area which was labeled “No Man’s Land” and get the other side’s treat and bring it back without getting pegged by a sock.

By the end of just four minutes, most of the students were tired from running around and ducking constantly. Torrens didn’t forget to stress that the real soldiers would have to do this day and night for weeks or months at a time

Students were surprised how much they could learn from a simple game involving desks, socks and dessert.

“It was shocking how close the simulation was to the real war in terms of having the same objective and rules,” said Wai. “Through a fun game, we were able to gain more exposure to how the soldiers felt during the middle of World War I.”

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