Sophomore Jasmine Ferguson, 16, center, and her classmates work during Global 10, or world history, class.

Teachers in a US military town are drawing straight lines from their classrooms to a war zone 4,500 miles away

Updated 4:01 AM ET, Sat March 19, 2022

Watertown, New York (CNN)It was not quite 8 a.m. and Ambur Misercola's first-period history class was still shaking off slumber as she told them of a woman detained in Moscow's Pushkin Square -- not unlike the historic Public Square a short drive north that anchors this American military town.

Yulia Zhivtsova's crime, as it were, was taking two Harry Potter books to the square on the first day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- one from the Ravenclaw House edition and one from the Hufflepuff version. As most young people know, the color for Ravenclaw is blue and for Hufflepuff, yellow. The book covers correlate. Thus, as Zhivtsova sat beneath a lamppost reading, the green patina likeness of poet Alexander Pushkin watching over her, she appeared to hold a Ukrainian flag.
"But she's just reading Harry Potter, right?" Misercola asked her students. "Those are kind of interesting forms of protest that they can still get in trouble for."
Over the next two days, Misercola would continue to challenge her students to think critically about the crisis, assigning projects centered on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with world history students examining media influence and economics pupils looking at the effects on markets.
For some, it's a straight line from the war zone 4,500 miles away to their classroom. While about 50 of the more than 1,000 students at Watertown High School have a parent in the armed forces, most of them stationed at nearby Fort Drum, others have friends and relatives in the Army. That's not counting the children of veterans and military contractors.
Fears of loved ones being deployed had been largely allayed by the time Russia's incursion entered its third week in mid-March, but concern lingered. Familiar with the former USSR and NATO expansion, students worried about Vladimir Putin's unpredictable nature and World War III.
The Pobletes (from left, Inee, Jennizor, Jeric and Grace) are among dozens of Fort Drum families at Watertown High.