Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Battlefield Trip to Ypres: Day Two

Hello Bloggers!

This is Day Two. Sorry this is a long post, however we visited so many places and I got so much from this trip.

Friday 20th February 2015

8 am
After yesterday’s busy day travelling I was so tired and in need of a good breakfast! After filling my plate with sausages, beans, hash browns, croissants, butter and jam and washing that all down with orange juice I was ready for the day. Today we were going to visit battlefield sites around Ypres. Some of these I had visited before and I really enjoyed them so visiting them again only enthused me more. There was a strong forecast of rain so after layering up and grabbing my waterproof we loaded onto the coach ready for our first stop.

9.30 am

The Yorkshire Trenches
I had visited here with my parents but I knew with a tour guide my second visit would be completely different and hopefully give me more information about how this could be used as a place to visit with children. Firstly, if my future school was in Yorkshire it would be a place to bring my children that would allow them to see something that linked to the soldiers from our county. Making personal links is so important so researching a soldier prior to visiting would be very useful in allowing children to get the emotional connection with the place. The trenches here are reconstructed and show how difficult it is to build on top of places in the area. The site is surrounded by industrial buildings and this site was preserved because they found remains here. There are many activities children could do here. As a teacher I would be tempted to bring out flip cams and iPads and allow children to take photos and videos. They could use this to create their own videos at home to share on a class blog. Allowing children to create a video diary would ensure that this trip could be told in their own words. It isn’t focusing on their writing which can sometimes put children off and you may not necessarily get the results you want on a school trip. By taking photos these can also be used to create a display in the classroom. Instead of the teachers doing it (or a Teaching Assistant) allow the children to be in charge. They can label the site and share their thoughts and feelings about their visit to this site. For children who are interested in art and want to be creative they can sketch the area. This is a nice activity as every child will draw it differently and use different materials. In a Science lesson you could also explore the materials that would be used to build and reinforce these trenches. Ask the children which materials would’ve been better to use if they had access to modern day ones.

English: video diaries, diary entries, creating a display with labels and feelings, thoughts from our visit, blog entries.
Art: sketching and drawing the site or part of the site.
Science: exploring the materials that were used to make/reinforce the trenches and contrasting with modern day materials.

Risks: the site had partial collapses in the trenches and had danger signs so they couldn’t walk in the trenches and be covered by the insurance. 

Langermark- German War Cemetery
I had never visited this site before so I didn’t know what to expect. When I got there I had my reservations. The Germans were always thought of as the enemy and it seemed strange for them to have places as beautiful as this to come and mourn their loss. I think this is an important opinion to explore and debate with children. Although these men were enemies they were doing the same duty our soldiers were doing. The same fate awaited them as our soldiers if they didn’t sign up. We seem to punish them because they were on the opposing side. Like our soldiers they were defending their country and their people, that’s what they thought they were fighting for. I think children need to take away the concrete idea that ‘Germans are bad’ and think from a different point of view. These men had families who all miss them and mourn their loss, therefore they should be able to come and remember them in a cemetery like every other soldier who gave their life fighting to defend their family and country. 
I was so happy we had Steve (our tour guide from Gesta) with us as he helped guide our thinking and question the reasons behind some of the things in the memorial. I always enjoy doing this rather than getting the answer straight away. This can be a really interesting way to find out what your children are thinking, promoting this deep-level learning and exploring different possibilities. In the centre of the memorial there is rectangle of gravel surrounded by many plaques with names written on them. This is a mass grave which is said to have around 25,000 bodies buried in it. As well as this, opposite (at the edge of the memorial) is a statue of 3 figures. Steve asked our thoughts on what we thought it meant. It looked like they were mourning the loss of the soldiers in the memorial and paying their respects to them. This was actually made from a photograph of 3 soldiers that were standing over a body of their comrade in mourning. Although my thought wasn’t entirely correct inviting the children to share their interpretations allows them to think carefully about why details were included in the construction of this cemetery. 

English: writing diary entries, making their video diary entries.
Art: looking at different statues and how the can be significant and have meaning, making their own statues from mod roc giving it a significance.
Science: looking at materials that aren’t easily weathered. This is important in a cemetery to ensure preservation.
Geography: adding to a map of Ypres that can be a classroom display and plotting the route the Germans would have taken. 

I really liked this picture that somebody from Cumbria University took. This wreath said "We remember all the brave soldiers on all sides". This is such an important message to tell the children.
Canadian Memorial
Vancouver corner was the place of the first gas attack where out of 18,000 Canadians, 2,000 were killed. This memorial was created to honour those who had fallen. Gas attacks inspired poets like Wilfred Owens to write about the brutal and harsh reality of gas attacks. 
One way in which I would like to use this in schools is to involve children in remembrance. How could we create an area in our school for a memorial to the fallen soldiers? Children can design this themselves exploring different ways to remember. This area can be used to remember family members as well as fallen soldiers. By creating this themselves it becomes more important and valuable for them. 

PSHCE: discussing remembrance and how we can remember, how it makes us feel, discussing different thoughts and opinions, including everyone as this was a war of all religions and genders, everyone has the right to be remembered. 

Sanctuary Wood: Museum and Trenches
We were able to stop here for lunch and get out of the rain and cold. I was so happy to warm up whilst I tucked into my pain au chocolat and I bought a hot chocolate and I thought I had to share this picture with you because it looks so warm and cosy.

What does Sanctuary mean to you? This allows to hear the different expectations children have.
Seeing the trenches
Walking on the front line
Seeing real artefacts that have been found
Pictures showing the lives of the soldiers and some of the belongings they had
Tunnels that could be accessed through the trenches.
The weather was terrible which made the site really boggy and slippy, this would be something that you would have take into consideration when planning a trip here. I was definitely thankful to have my waterproof coat as well as my boots!
Steve had us gather around in a circle and asked a few of us to sum up life in the trenches in one word. I really liked this activity as these can be used for displays in the classroom with 'WOW' words. Get the children to think of what it might be like to be in those soldiers shoes. How must they be feeling?
You could also have children take 5 pictures that best capture their time at this site. You will see children will focus on different elements of the site and see why they chose it.
This was a really good site to visit as it had outdoor, practical aspects and let's face it children love getting muddy and putting on their wellies! Although it also had a museum inside which had lots of pictures of the soldiers and what their lives were like in the trenches. They also had uniforms, boots, books, paintings etc. There was something for everyone here and Steve (our tour guide) made it so enriching.

English: writing a diary entry as if you were a soldier in the trenches, video diaries, writing letters, writing poetry
Drama: recreating our own outdoor area like this to role play
Maths: measuring length of the trenches




3 pm

Tyne Cot Cemetery

The Tyne Cot Cemetery is now the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world. The Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box, which was suggested by King George V. There are now 11,956 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery. 8,369 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to more than 80 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 20 casualties whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. There are 4 German burials, 3 being unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

We had chance to plant our Remembrance Crosses whilst we were here. Every one of us got to write our own messages, which could be general or personal. I really liked this idea and I think for children it would be really meaningful for them to pay their own respects to the soldiers. I put the name of 3 soldiers on my cross. These were all relatives of mine. Charles Hazell was my Great Uncle who was just 16. He had lied about his age to the army and said he was 19, after a woman mistook him for an older man and called him a coward. Unfortunately he passed away in the second battle of the Somme. The two brothers Arthur and George joined up together. They planned to use the money to set up a business when they returned. George was the only brother who returned and never set up that business after the loss of his sibling. Having a personal story really helped me reflect and remember what it must've been like for my ancestors who had served.

We also went to the visitors centre here where they had some artefacts and pictures of the soldiers who had served. On the path there were speakers as well as in the centre that reeled off names and ages of the soldiers who were buried here. It was quite moving to hear just how many names we heard in the space of a few minutes. Every one of those soldiers had a family and their own story, yet they all shared the same fate. It is important to point out that not all of these men were young; there was a huge range of ages. Some children may develop this misconception that all soldiers are young lads when in fact there was a wider range of ages like that. 

I was incredibly moved by all the inscriptions put on the gravestones. They showed how brave these soldiers were and how thankful they were for their bravery. These families had shown that although they were mourning their loss they were incredibly proud of their sacrifice to protect their country and family.

Even though we were soggy, wet and very cold we managed to smile for a group photo before heading back to the hotel.

I can't thank Gesta and our Tour Guide Steve Jolly enough for this trip. It was made so much more memorable and meaningful by his infectious enthusiasm. I was able to share this experience with my friends and meet new people. If you get the chance to go on a trip like we did I would urge you to say YES! Even if you don't know anyone take a chance. I had spoken to Jess prior to the trip, however Carmen and I had never spoken before we went. We were even in the same lectures at University but because we had different friendship groups we never had a conversation with each other. As a result of this we've become closer and now I will take more effort to speak to both of these girls when I go back to University.

These sites were amazing to visit, although they wouldn’t be appropriate to take children unless they lived further South. It was an awful long journey even for us so I don’t think children could handle the long days. Day visits would be much better and Gesta have done trips like this before because they are a lot closer to the Ferry than being in Leeds is! If I ever get the chance to teach down South I would definitely think about taking my children to these places, however I can instead take my experiences into the classroom when teaching in the North. Children still relate to real experiences and will be enthusiastic about it if you are. Making displays, videos, recreating areas are just a few of the ways to draw in children.

Hopefully we'll have many more trips to look forward to in the near future with the University!

"The rest is still unwritten"


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