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

New signs and more aim to make sense of North Cowichan’s trails

Strategy begins with Maple Mountain and Mount Tzouhalem

Games opening ceremonies promise to be magical

The Cowichan 2018 BC Summer Games will kick-off on Thursday, July 19… Continue reading

‘The Little Prince’ lands on Chemainus Theatre stage starting this weekend

It’s a magical experience for young and old: a classic tale comes to the stage

Club’s banner offers warm welcome at Cowichan Secondary

It’s hung above the inner door in the main lobby of the school on James Street

Drivesmart column: No playing in the street!

The residential street we lived on was treated as an extension of the front yard

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Cowichan Coffee Time: Mounties partner with CTRA, plus bursaries

• Cowichan Spirit of Women has accomplished a lot in the Valley… Continue reading

Coming up in Cowichan: Boots full of treasure, Dementia workshop, MP’s town hall meeting

Celebrating five years at the Station with ‘Loot in the Boot’ Cowichan… Continue reading

VIDEO: Firefighters put out brush fire in Nanaimo

Fire broke out in the area of a new development under construction in East Wellington

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Most Read