High school student Dylan Ferris pictured in the trench he built in his backyard, in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday March 29, 2018. Ferris is spending 24 hours in a muddy trench in his parent’s yard, all for a social studies project. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Teen sleeps in WW1 trench for social studies project

The idea is to recognize the ordeal soldiers faced and understand the sacrifices they made

Dylan Ferris decided to dig a little deeper for his high school social studies project, which he’s dedicated to the lives of soldiers in the First World War.

Ferris isn’t just writing a report. The 15-year-old has built a trench in his backyard complete with sandbags, has borrowed a replica uniform and is even sleeping below ground in freezing temperatures.

The idea is to recognize the ordeal soldiers faced and understand the sacrifices they made.

“My mum wasn’t too keen on it because it’s her vegetable garden, or it was her vegetable garden. Now it’s a hole,” explained Ferris, who said his mother insisted he come inside Wednesday night when the mercury dipped below -10C.

As an air cadet, Ferris visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France last year for a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

But getting his mother to agree to a trench in the yard wasn’t easy. His chief tactic, he explained, was to propose even more outlandish and dangerous projects so the trench would seem tame by comparison.

Among them was a home-built airplane. A flame-thrower was another idea he pitched.

Next, he had to excavate the dirt. The ground was frozen solid, so help was required from a family friend with a propane heater. Together, they used tarps and pallets to construct a covering to make the ground soft enough to dig.

For the clothes, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum loaned Ferris a uniform from the First World War that they allow museum visitors to try on.

Even with the cold temperatures there’s mud everywhere — on the steps to his house, on the landing and in the garage. Ferris cleans it up, but everything quickly gets dirty again.

It’s spring break from school right now and Ferris said his plan is to attempt 24 continuous hours in his trench.

He spent six hours in it Sunday night, bundled in a vintage sleeping bag and using a sandbag as a pillow. His friend slept nearby in a camper van, and for added authenticity, lobbed mudballs at Ferris to encourage him to keep his head down.

Ferris said he enjoys reading in the trench during the day. But he said it’s eerie at night, giving him a glimpse of what soldiers endured a century ago.

“I don’t think it can be truly representative, but when I was in there, there’s a lot of truth to the war songs, ’Oh, I want to go home,’ and ‘Long Way to Tipperary,’” he said.

“It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s miserable and, you know, the house is right there. It’s just a longing for home, I guess. Even when it’s right there.”

Ferris said he hopes to get a good mark on his project. He may even still build an airplane this summer.

“I think the trench will stay there until my mum says I want my vegetable garden back and I have to fill it in.”

Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

UPDATED: Fatality at highway crash in Nanoose Bay Friday afternoon

Accident happened just before 4 p.m. near Hillview Road

Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

Big Read: agriculture a big, expensive commitment as advocates push to make us more food secure

Students celebrate new indigenous garden

Garden teaches students about traditional uses of local plants

School district changes mind, won’t cut community school coordinators

Budget initiatives proposed for next school year

Nanaimo region receives $700,000 in federal support for summer jobs

Funding for Nanaimo-Ladysmith up $74,000 from last year

Lt.-Gov. Guichon believes she made the right decision in last B.C. election

Outgoing Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon said her most memorable moments weren’t surrounding the election

NAFTA: Talks continue through weekend in scramble to get a deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called negotiations ‘perpetual’

Pulp mill fined $900,000 for leaking effluent into B.C. lake

Mackenzie Pulp Mill pleaded guilty to depositing deleterious substance into water frequented by fish

B.C.’s 2-year lobbying ban starts May 1

Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists can grant exemptions from the prohibition if public interest

Horgan speaks of government’s successes to ‘friends’ at CUPE BC convention

CUPE BC president Paul Faoro said was first time a B.C. premier addressed convention in some time

Speed Skating Canada fires coach Michael Crowe after investigation

Crowe was a coach on the American team from 1983 to 1991 and again from 1999 to 2006

5 things to know about the ongoing influx of asylum seekers in Canada

Number of illegal border crossings are up this year – as RCMP, military, politicians try to combat

RCMP investigate sexual assault in Courtenay

Comox Valley RCMP officers are investigating a reported sexual assault April 11

VIDEO: Smokers talk pot rules at annual 4-20 event

Annual pot protest-meets-festival in Vancouver attracted hundreds to vendors, concert

Most Read