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

Darrell Paulovich remembered after accident claims his life

A tragic accident claimed the life of a rodeo advocate over the weekend

Central Music Festival presents Matt Minglewood Oct. 18th

He performs Oct. 18th at the Elks Lodge

Lightning battle the Rams and the wind for a win

Lacombe heads into a bye week looking towards semifinals

Red Deer College instructors launch latest titles

Book launch held Oct. 11th in RDC’s Library

Secret supper clubs test appetite for cannabis-infused food ahead of legalization

Chefs are eagerly awaiting pot edibles to become legal in Canada

Andrew Scheer on revamped NAFTA deal: ‘I would have signed a better one’

Conservative leader says he wouldn’t have signed USMCA

Dad files Charter challenge after B.C. bans kids from taking transit unsupervised

Adrian Crook is taking his fight to B.C. Supreme Court

Police investigate alleged arson at Toronto hotel housing asylum seekers

Police believe the fire was started intentionally, but they have not spelled out a possible motive

Atlantic Canada sees heavy rains, winds from post-tropical storm Michael

Parts of Newfoundland were forecast to get up to 40 millimetres before the storm is set to head out to sea

High times: optimism in Smiths Falls, the little town that marijuana saved

Home to fewer than 9,000 people, the Ontario town had become all too familiar with the pain of economic hardship over the years

UPDATE: Man dies in fiery multi-vehicle collision near Ponoka

Icy roads considered a factor in a serious three-vehicle collision on Highway 2

Five Alberta high school football players hurt in crash

The Southern Alberta Minor Football Association said the crash involved five players with the Raymond High School Comets

Most Read