Skip into the past

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Scottish children make the short journey to meet their new Second World War 'parents' with the help of Fiona Anderson and Heather White
Scottish children make the short journey to meet their new Second World War 'parents' with the help of Fiona Anderson and Heather White

Making history come to life can be daunting but, when successful, it can broaden pupils' understanding of the world and help them make sense of critical events of the past.

So when pupils at Newton Primary School in Dunblane, Perthshire, were studying the Second World War, we talked about children being evacuated from Glasgow to stay with families in Stirling.

We decided to recreate this with the help of nearby Callander Primary. As a result, 55 Primary 7 (Year 6) pupils from Newton were "evacuated" to the neighbouring school, where they were welcomed by their new "parents", played by pupils, for a day of information sharing, celebration and friendships.

The evacuees first paraded, in full wartime costumes, down the street from the old station hotel to the school, where they were met by the billeting officer, Andrew Craven, a Callander teacher, and welcomed by Ann Genese, Callander's headteacher, who entered their names into the school's actual 1939 register.

As they filed into the school hall, which was decorated with bunting and blackout curtains, they heard a recording of a speech by the then Princess Elizabeth, who welcomed them. One pupil said: "There was the suspense of not knowing who your family was going to be."

But when the evacuated children were introduced to their new parents, they enjoyed a wartime picnic of spam sandwiches and honey scones. As they ate, Forties songs were played on the gramophone and pupils from both schools talked about Anderson Shelters, war poetry and anti-propaganda posters.

They also got to speak to residents who had experienced the war. One Callander grandparent demonstrated how gas masks were worn.

Curators from the Hamilton Toy Collection Museum in Callander showed them toys made by German prisoners of war and other memorabilia, including ration cards.

At the end of the afternoon, pupils listened to a BBC correspondent witnessing the signing of the unconditional surrender at a small schoolhouse in Rheims, France, which heralded the end of the war.

Songs such as Run, Rabbit, Run and Quartermaster's Stores were sung in celebration. Finally, the evacuees and their parents enjoyed a wartime buffet of clootie dumplings, honey cakes and macaroons.

Fiona Anderson is deputy headteacher at Callander Primary School in Perthshire, and Heather White is principal teacher at Newton Primary School in Dunblane, Perthshire

Why would you recommend this?

Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence challenges teachers to think differently and creatively; this project is an ideal way to provide the kind of active learning opportunities that pupils prefer. For us, it was the type of day that makes you become a teacher. The interaction and buzz of the pupils makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

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