The First World War ended 88 years before Lacey Sisson was born, but the importance of the war and its impact on the world is not lost on the 12-year-old girl.
“I have a lot of family members who served in World War 1 and World War 2, so it’s something I’ve always been interested in,” said Sisson, a student at Orchard Park Public School in Orillia.
Sisson was among the hundreds of local students taking in the Orillia Public Library’s interactive Remembrance Day exhibit, which opened Thursday and will close Saturday.
It includes not only artifacts from various wars, but also information about the local people who lived through them.
The students are given paybooks that serve as a sort of passport, leading them to various parts of the library and ensuring they learn a few things along the way. Volunteers — some dressed in war-era uniforms — from the Orillia Museum of Art and History, the Simcoe County Museum and other organizations are on hand to educate the kids.
“It helps us understand our history and heritage,” said Sisson, who enjoyed learning about the different roles people played both on and off the battlefields. “If you break things down, it’s easier to understand for kids our age. Everyone played an important part in these horrific wars.”
Sisson had a long conversation with John Merritt, of the Simcoe County Museum, who was dressed in a First World War infantry uniform. He appreciated the students’ interest and the opportunity to share with them his passion for history.
“This is a good way to engage students,” he said. “It gives them a different perspective on what they’re learning in the classroom.”
Nicole Turvey agreed. She was dressed in uniform that would have been worn by members of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.
“The kids are asking us a lot of questions and they’re just blowing through those paybooks,” she said.
The variety of information and displays — from weapons and uniforms to profiles of local soldiers — helps bring history to life for the students, Turvey said.
“Kids have to realize that this was real,” she said. “It’s not just stories. It’s not video games.”
Rebecca Penner and her sons, Ezekiel, seven, and Tiago, five, weren’t part of the school group, but they decided to check out the exhibit when they arrived.
“I love seeing all of this and it’s nice that they have people dressed up,” Penner said. “It helps them have an appreciation for the freedoms we have and to not take it for granted.”
The exhibit will be open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cost to attend.