SYCAMORE – Before the Internet, before TV and even before everyone owned a radio, propaganda posters touted the benefits of enlisting for military service or buying war bonds.
And for almost 30 years, Mark Mannebach’s students have recreated those posters. This year, his last before his planned retirement this spring, Mannebach said his students did an outstanding job with the posters that contain slogans like “Our boys need sox – knit your bit” and “Help Uncle Sam stamp out the Kaiser.”
“I have about 125 students, and I decided to put every single poster on display to celebrate their work,” Mannebach said. “Dozens of them are art quality; well beyond what might be expected from a middle-school student.”
During discussions about World War I and the importance of the propaganda posters as a mass media tool, Mannebach assigns his eighth-graders the task of finding a poster they like – a task made infinitely simpler with the Internet. After Mannebach approves their choice, they take on the task of recreating the poster with colored pencils, paints or whatever medium seems appropriate.
“It’s kind of a winter rite of passage,” Mannebach said. “It’s a good assignment for the winter. It keeps them engaged during the long, cold winter days.”
Several of Mannebach’s students discussed their posters. All 125 are on display in the halls near his classroom.
“My grandfather was in the military,” said Sean Peek, pointing out his poster urging enlistment in the Navy.
Sam Knuth’s poster depicted detailed drawings of a spider and hawk.
“I liked the detail,” Sam said. “It looked like it would be challenging.”
Brooke Kron sought out a poster that depicted the involvement of women in the war effort. Her poster, “Women help America’s sons win the war,” encouraged the purchase of war bonds.
“Not all of my students take art, but this was a good opportunity for those that do to showcase their talent,” Mannebach said. “They really went after it.”