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Poems to mark the end of war

Our schools were both invited by Blackburn Museum Art Gallery to become involved in "Their Past, Your Future", an Imperial War Museum touring exhibition commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Beardwood School staff saw it as a great cross-curricular opportunity linking history, English, citizenship and ICT, and staff wanted to involve as many key stage 3 pupils as possible. One Year 7 history club produced a PowerPoint presentation on the role of the Commonwealth in the Second World War. This was of great relevance to Beardwood pupils, who are predominantly of Asian heritage. The resources produced are now being used by Year 9 pupils studying the 20th-century world history unit.

Year 8 pupils worked with Just Poets, commissioned by Blackburn Museum to encourage creative writing and debate on the theme of conflict. The sessions resulted in many moving poems. Seeing these displayed and reading them out during a gallery visit were highlights of the project.

Darwen Vale High School's history and English staff collaborated to choose a group with no prior Year 8 curriculum knowledge of the Second World War to encourage arguments without bias.

Just Poets presented material ranging from Black Eyed Peas to Bob Dylan.

Students were shown original letters written by a war prisoner. What they wrote as a result reflected their feelings about incarceration and the effects of separation on families during times of war. Nathan Moran, for example wrote:

I am on my own, in this cold,

gloomy trench.

Bombs banging, guns clanging,

screams of people dying...

The project has had a notable impact on those students. Their writing has taken a different path, they are more willing to offer their own opinions; they question information; and they appear more confident - just what we teachers are constantly striving for.

l www.theirpast-yourfuture.org.uk

Simone Hughes Head of humanities, Beardwood School, Blackburn, Lancashire Claire Redman Teaching and learning strategy manager, Darwen Vale High School,Lancashire

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