Teaching children about World War One in its centenary year

Date Posted: 24/01/2018

This year marks 100 years since the end of World War One, a pivotal point in history which pupils can learn about on a school trip.

World War One, which took place from 1914 to 1918, had a huge impact not only on politics and society, but everything else surrounding it. As a major period in history, World War One is one of the subjects many schools learn about in Primary and Secondary school, and with this year marking the centenary of it ending, it as important as ever for pupils to expand their knowledge. 

However, this learning doesn’t have to take place inside the classroom. There are many locations, destinations and attractions with links to the war which will allow pupils to feel closer and gain a far better understanding of it, from workshops to walking through trenches.

The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire is a great place to take school children to not only learn about World War One but those still serving. The memorial is a place of remembrance and has been planting trees since 1997 as a way of honouring those who have fallen and recognising the sacrifices made for the country. Schools visiting can enjoy self-led visits as well as facilitated visits which include tours, activities and workshops. New activities will be coming to the Arboretum soon, so teachers should keep an eye out. You can also take part in a WW1 Explore Day where you'll learn about the different roles and responsibilities of those in the trenches and further.

The World War 1 Remembrance Centre in Portsmouth offers free visits for schools. When visiting you’ll see artefacts on display, reproduction exhibits and memorabilia from World War One. There is also a walk-through trench system for pupils to immerse themselves and gain a better understanding of what it would have been like for the soldiers. Teachers should note that school visits must be pre-arranged.

IWM

Pictured: The Imperial War Museum London.

The Imperial War Museums are a good choice for school visits. The collection of museums includes: IWM London, IWM North Manchester, IWM Duxford, Churchill War Rooms, and HMS Belfast. IWM London, for example, helps tell the stories of experiences from World War One through to the conflicts of present day. Schools can enjoy self-guided visits, as well as learning sessions which can be arranged. Various exhibitions run throughout the year too.

The National Army Museum in London offers collections, talks and events that look at different wars and areas of armies. School workshops include Poppies to Remember? suitable for Key Stage 1 and 2, which looks at the poppy as a symbol of WW1 and Will You Join?: Propaganda and Recruitment for Key Stage 2 which looks at World War One soldiers and what motivated them to sign up to the army and the war effort.

Teachers who fancy taking their school group on a walking tour, can, with Blue Badge guides all over the country. Suitable for all, the guided walks take in significant locations with links to World War One. Coach tours can also be arranged.

Ypres

Pictured: War memorial in Ypres, Belgium.

Ypres and Somme

For Secondary groups going abroad to learn about World War One, the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, Belgium is a good place to start. This museum houses artefacts and collections from World War One, such as photographs and uniforms. For schools there are workshops available as well as worksheets to use when going around the museum.

Sanctuary Wood Museum & Hill 62, also in Ypres, is worth visiting during your trip. The museum itself offers plenty for pupils to learn about, meanwhile the woods contain trenches which children will find fascinating to walk through, envisioning time 100 years ago.

Hill 60 is another location to stop off at when in Ypres. Here pupils will view a huge crater left by a World War One bomb.

Tour operators such as WST offer tours to Ypres and Somme with battlefield and war themes. Teachers can choose from trips between one and four days long, during which pupils might discover personal stories from the war, and visit a variety of locations with a rich history, including Croonaert Wood, the 1916 Somme Museum, and Delville Wood. 

Select School Travel is another operator which provides school tours with a World War One theme. Different packages can be arranged depending on the duration of your stay.

School Travel Organiser's Guide