World War II letters
Our next topic is to focus on a period of historical significance and we are looking at the events in and around Dunkirk during World War II. As well as being inspiring and well resourced, one of the reasons it is so interesting is that it is easier for the children to relate to the people who lived through this period of such importance. Our last history topic was the Mayas and, whilst fascinating because it was something the children knew nothing about, it was hard for children to relate to a life experience that was so far removed from their own.
In order to help our children understand the significance and participation of real people in World War II we have made use of actual letters from participants in in the war. This Canadian letters and images website (www.canadianletters.ca) is an excellent and moving source of information including letters, photos and other documents about real people who took part in the war and is the source of all the resources we have used in our display.
Initially we chose two main people to base our work and display on. Daniel Serrick and Ernest Underwood. Both of these people were Canadians who fought in the war and the letters they wrote or are about them reflect two horrible experiences including Daniel who, unfortunately, did not survive
The display we designed was inspired by a recent visit to the stunning Imperial War Museum North, whose exhibits are all built around the personal experiences of people from conflicts throughout the recent past. Every half an hour or so they also project onto their enormous backdrops a multi-media presentation using memories and pictures. We strongly recommend that if you are in Manchester you pay a visit to this engaging museum.
Our display, to begin with, is based on sharing personal stories of people from the war. We chose a couple of letters from the individuals we had picked to reflect some of the life experiences they were having during the war or from people around them as they process what had happened to them. This allows the children to understand the impact on friends and families as well as the individuals involved. Linked to this, we also chose a photo of them so that children could see that these were real people.
The children were interested to read about them and, even though it is still challenging, were better able to understand some aspects of their lives especially when they talk about the day-to-day aspects of their lives.
A Powerpoint containing the resources for the display can be found in our Dropbox folder here.
The next step, again inspired by the visit to the museum, is to add an audio-visual element to the display perhaps using some the augmented reality tools that are available.