A Phone Call to Our Past

Dr. Petri’s Vietnam Veteran project

By Damaris Galeano (Staff Writer) -6/23/16

A student’s picture reenactment next to its original
A student’s picture reenactment next to its original

At the end of every year for the past three years, History teacher Dr. Scott M. Petri has been assigning his students a Vietnam veterans project in order to teach them persistence and interviewing skills.

This project is not only for said skills but to give a hands-on experience to the tragic and traumatic events of the war.
“You could just teach them the facts,” remarks Dr. Petri, “but I believe this can teach them important life skills that they will need and use in the future.”
The project consists of three main points: a picture reenactment, a phone interview with a veteran, and a short, original film. For the picture reenactment, students are to form groups, choose a historical Vietnam War photo, and reenact it on campus. The pictures are then displayed in Dr. Petri’s classroom next to the original photo. Dr. Petri remarks how his students get very creative with this part of the project and many quite enjoy it. Also, during open house, parents are able to vote for their favorite photos.
“Parents love this. They like seeing their kid’s work and how hands on this is,” claims Dr. Petri.
The original film must be done in groups and be from the perspective of someone involved some way in the war including soldiers, protesters, Vietnamese citizens, and so on. It should be accurate and must be true to the time era.

For the phone interview there are strict rules and guidelines to keep students and their information safe.  Students are to inform their parents about this project and get parental permission before making long distance phone calls. They are not to disclose their last name, school name, or location to anyone they interview and to not give their cell phone number to anyone they interview. If their interviewee says anything inappropriate, or makes the student uncomfortable, they are to thank them for their time, hang up the phone, document it on their phone log, and promptly report it to their parents and teacher. They must also notify the interviewee that they are being recorded and that said interview must be at least twenty to thirty minutes long. The students are also given sample questions and are advised on what to say.
Occasionally, a veteran doesn’t wish to interviewed and hang up on students, but Petri has a rule for this too.
“If a student can’t get a hold of at least 10 veterans or are unable to interview them due to respecting the Veteran’s wishes, and they show me evidence that they did indeed call, they are excused from the project.”
Dr. Petri claims that this project helps students come out of their shell as he gestured to a picture where he said a particularly shy and quiet student volunteered to be the center of attention in the photo reenactment. Another example he gave of student growth was that of a student who completely disagreed and was against the Vietnam War. After her interview with a veteran though, she had a change of heart and was able to see the trauma and torment that veterans faced when they came home.
“I had a great experience with this project, and it really helped me understand the veteran’s point of view,” reflected senior Melissa Uyuni.