"Who Wants to Be an Octogenarian?" (A Service-Learning Activity) (9-12)

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners will construct a questionnaire as a needs assessment tool to determine the roles of senior citizens in their community during World War II. Learners will interview the seniors at a local seniors’ residence to obtain primary source information. Compiled information will be presented in a PowerPointâ type presentation and written accounts of residents’ remembrances of World War II.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree to Four Fifty-Minute Class Periods (or two-block schedule class sessions), with additional time for travel to and from a senior residence.

The learner will:

  • generate a questionnaire as the basis for a needs assessment for senior citizens about their community role(s) during World War II.
  • interview senior citizens at local seniors’ home.
  • engage in on-going reflection and evaluation.
  • design the service project.
  • demonstrate sensitivity to the seniors with whom they are working.
  • produce a Power-Point type presentation with emphasis on reflection of examples of philanthropic acts (sacrificing for the good of the community), and highlighting the various roles that were depicted through the interview process.
  • plan, draft, revise and edit presentation.
  • present the presentation to the senior citizens with whom they worked.
  • demonstrate knowledge of American involvement in World War II.
  • Completed questionnaire
  • Tape recorders and tape
  • Video camera
  • Computers or access to a computer lab
  • Presentation software
  • Grading Rubric (Handout One)
  • Web sites and text cited in Bibliographical References
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Learner Homework: Learner will write a letter to a grandparent, other family member or friend of the family who remembers World War II, asking them to describe what role they served. Include those responses in the presentation.


Kuhn, Betsy. Angels of Mercy, the Army Nurses of World War II. Atheneum, Oct. 1999. ISBN:0689820445

Richmond Arts and Culture Commission (Rosie the Riveter Project)

Women’s History: The History Net
Rosie the Riveter¾ Women in the Factories of World War II



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Remind learners of the game "Twenty Questions." Review with the learners how the player with the most effective questions usually ends up the winner by narrowing the possible answers with directed questions.

    Inform the learners they are going to do a two-minute interview with a classmate. They must first design a list of ten questions which will generate information about the interviewee in regards to the classmate’s hobbies, sports, or activities at which they excel in the classroom or school Give learners ten minutes to generate list of questions and two to do the interview. Discuss the results of the mini interview, as well as what kinds of questions were the most effective. Tell class they are going to develop a questionnaire for senior citizens to obtain information about the role(s) they served in their community during the World War II period.

    Instructor’s Notes:

    Clarify those elements you are looking for in this survey. Instruct learners that they will be conducting this to obtain primary source information. They have already read the chapter in the history text about World War II. If your district curriculum does not include WW II, provide materials for your learners so that they have working knowledge of the social dynamics of America, both at home and on the war fronts during this time period. You may use Rosie the Riveter pictures, views of automobile factories producing planes, women’s groups folding bandages, USO services and other acts of philanthropic organizations.

    To tie this lesson into the three prior lessons, have learners include questions about how the seniors found out about the Holocaust and their thoughts. Have the learners respond to how their parents and families were affected and what they did to contribute to the war effort.

  2. Assign learners a partner with whom they will compile 20 questions to ask of their senior.

  3. Questions must be written in complete sentences, clearly stated, free of mechanical errors. Final copy should be typed using a word processor if possible.

  4. As a class, each group will reveal the questions they will ask and receive feedback from their classmates as to the appropriateness and sensitivity of their questions.

  5. Allow learners to final edit their questionnaires.Instructor’s Note: An alternate method is to then have the learners select the "best" 20 questions and all groups ask the same questions of their seniors. This method allows for graphing responses and putting them into chart form.

  6. Schedule visitation time and secure all proper clearances and parent/guardian permission.

  7. Prepare learners for what they will encounter at the senior residence. Instructor’s Notes: You should visit the residence prior to taking your learners. Survey your own learners as to what they think they may encounter and inform them what they may encounter. Bring up wheelchairs, intravenous bottles, and dementia and allay fears. Make certain that their seniors are selected by the activity director of the home, and that the seniors know they will be visited and the purpose of the visit.

  8. Learners will analyze and reflect upon information generated from the interview process by making journal entries prior to the activity, during the activity and after the activity.

  9. Pre-Service: Journal entry on what they think about the project and what their personal goal will be.

    During: Have the learners write in their journals an evaluation of how they believe their project is working or not working and what things they may have to do to improve.

    After: Have the learners write a "note" to next year’s class about the activity, what they learned and what the next group should expect.

  10. Learners will develop a Power Point type presentation to show results and information from interview and from the school/home connection responses from family members and friends of the family.

  11. Plan the celebratory activity. Schedule a visit back to the seniors and have the learners give their presentation. Every senior should have a page or pages in the presentation. Print that page(s) out and have the learner bind and present it to his/her senior.


Learners will be assessed on project by a Grading Rubric (Handout One). Learners will score 70% or higher on a content-specific knowledge test prepared by the instructor on World War II.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners will travel to local seniors’ residence to interview individual seniors about their remembrances and participation in activities in support of the war effort. Before actual interview, learners will rehearse interview; talking about language, manners, clarity, vocal tones, and recording of responses. The learners will engage in on-going reflection, evaluation and plan a celebration activity with the seniors.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark HS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.
    4. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.