Churchill anniversary opens avenues for teaching

Date Posted: 30/12/2014

2015 sees the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death and venues all over the UK are marking his memory with events and exhibitions, many of which make rich pickings for school trips.

The 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death will be marked all around the country next year, which will come as good news to History teachers. Events and exhibitions commemorating the former prime minister’s passing lend themselves naturally to the study of every aspect of History, including political, social, economic and military aspects.

Teachers of other subjects should place this anniversary on their radar, too. Churchill may be best remembered as Britain’s wartime leader, who led the country when we stood alone against Hitler and Nazi Germany. However, there is much, much more to Winston Churchill than this.

His policies as prime minister and leader of the opposition influenced everything from science and the production of more advanced medicines to the disbanding of the British Empire and the geography of the world that followed.

With this in mind, here are a few of the attractions that lend themselves best to teaching about the outstanding Britain, and the way he influenced the world.

Blenheim Palace

This Oxfordshire palace is intrinsically linked to Churchill. Not only was he born there, but he proposed to his wife Clementine by the side of the Temple of Diana in the gardens. Blenheim has not forgotten its connections to the great leader. Next summer, a Churchill memorial garden will open in the grounds, in his memory.

Of even more interest to schools, though, is the public speaking competition that the palace will host next year. The project aims to bring school groups to Blenheim Palace to learn about Sir Winston Churchill and to develop their skills in public speaking.

As part of the project, students will visit Blenheim Palace for a tour concentrating on the life and career of Sir Winston Churchill and for a series of master classes in public speaking.  These classes will use the speeches of Sir Winston Churchill as a starting point. 

As 2015 sees the launch of the English Speaking Union’s new competition for KS4 and 5 – The Winston Churchill Cup for Public Speaking – Blenheim will be concentrating on younger students. Its competition will have two categories; one for Primary schools, years 5 and 6; and one for Secondary schools, years 7 and 8.

The provisional date for next year’s Winston Churchill Public Speaking Competition is Tuesday 17th March and it will take place in The Orangery at Blenheim Palace.

The Science Museum

A new exhibition called Churchill’s Scientists opens at the Science Museum in London on 23rd January.

Timed to mark the 50th anniversary, the show will shine the spotlight on the scientists who helped Britain to victory during World War Two.

Students will be able to discover more about the work of Robert Watson-Watt, who invented the radar, and the science of Dorothy Hodgkin, who pioneered X-ray crystallography.

They’ll also be able to delve into the ways in which science was used to develop nutrition and the production of medicines during the war.

The exhibition will feature unique objects from the Science Museum’s collections together with original archive film footage, letters and photographs.

Highlights include rarely seen relics of Britain’s war time atom bomb project ‘Tube Alloys’ and the high-speed camera built at Aldermaston to film the first microseconds of detonation of Britain’s home-grown atomic bomb, first tested in 1952.

Admission to the exhibition is free and the content is suitable for children in Key Stage 2 all the way up to adults.

London’s Churchill War Rooms

No feature on Churchill would be complete without mentioning the Churchill War Rooms in London. From 1939 to 1945, a group of basement offices in Whitehall served as the nerve centre of Britain’s war effort. Known as the Cabinet War Rooms, the complex was occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Churchill.

Today, the war rooms are open to the public and connected to a museum, which is the only major museum in the world dedicated to the life and legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

Using cutting-edge technology and multimedia displays, this museum brings to life Churchill’s story is brought to life, starting at the high point of his career - his appointment as Prime Minister on 10th May 1940.

School visits to the war Room help students learn about leadership and decision-making and how lives in Britain were affected by World War Two. Learning Sessions use original artefacts, documents, photographs, posters and film from our collections, and take place in the dedicated Clore Learning Centre as well as around the rest of the site.

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