Helping children understand stories behind the poppies
Blackhorse Primary School ensured that every single child, from the youngest to the oldest, understood the importance of the First World War with a themed ‘Armistice 100’ week.
In the week leading up to the centenary, the children at Blackhorse in Emersons Green learned about the war in lessons and from visits and visitors. Parents provided family stories which were used in lessons, including that of Herbert Horatio Millican, the great great uncle of one of the infant children, with the school having access to both the letter he wrote from the battlefields of France just a week before he died aged just 19, and the ‘death penny’ sent by the King to his family after the war.
The school community came together to remember their relatives, with the children making over 1000 hand-made poppies for the school’s ‘poppy wall’, which also included photos and accounts, researched by the children, of their family’s contribution to this conflict.
To bring to life the day-to-day experience of the average Tommy, the school brought in a ‘historian in residence’ : Mr Evans, a teacher at St Stephen’s Junior, a parent at the school and a First World War enthusiast.
In full WW1 uniform, he explained to them the life of a soldier on the Western Front, from various perspectives including: the role of Commonwealth soldiers, the story of the first black officer in the British army and how women led medical advances in field hospitals.
Every child in Years 1-6 took part in an excursion to develop their understanding further. The younger children went to war memorials in Page Park and Mangotsfield. Older pupils went to the Imperial War Museum in London.
Head teacher Simon Botten explained the children’s depth of their knowledge: “A guide in the museum was trying to explain the causes of the war using a simple ‘helping your friends’ analogy, when an eight-year-old boy commented ‘Oh – you mean the assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand by the Serbian terrorist which led to the Balkan Crisis!’”.