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Riverside Primary ‘This Morning’ style TV programme whole school remembrance assembly

9th January 2017

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Based in our Poppyscotland Glasgow office we the Poppyscotland Learning Team do not always hear about all of the amazing Poppyscotland fundraising events and activities that schools’ organise and deliver so skillfully and successfully during the annual Poppy Appeal and in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday. While I’m mentioning it I would just like to say that we would absolutely love to hear from more schools about all of the amazing activities that they get up to 😉 Don’t be shy 😉 And as luck would have it, through Regional Support Officer for the Armed Services Advice Project, Alan Hamilton, we were lucky enough to hear about a truly unique plan of activities and remembrance assembly organized by Riverside Primary School in Livingston.

I believe their remembrance journey is so inspiring (especially if you are a teacher looking for some new Poppy Appeal or Remembrance Assembly ideas for next year) we asked Primary 7 teacher Laura Whitelaw if she and her pupils wouldn’t mind telling us about how they researched, crafted, planned and delivered their amazing remembrance assembly in their own words. Laura has been more than gracious in offering her help with our request and has very generously shared her pupils learning journey with us below:

Laura: ‘I am really touched that our assembly has had such a fantastic impact and that Alan Hamilton enjoyed it so much that he is telling others about it.

This is our Remembrance Journey……

To launch our topic we shared what we already knew about Poppy Scotland and Remembrance; creating a band of questions of which we wanted to learn the answers to. With these questions in mind we had a collection of homework investigation tasks to try and help to answer our questions. We then had the opportunities to learn from and speak to a variety of ‘experts’ to give us some insight into our questions. Finally we brought our learning together by selling poppies around the school and showcasing our experiences using a ‘This Morning’ style T.V. programme whole school assembly where family and friends were invited.

We started {our research} with an artefact handling session lead by Maureen Liddell from West Lothian Council Museum. This gave the pupils a fantastic insight about life at home at the start of WW1 and also about how our local community was affected by the First World War. Maureen spoke about the Pals Battalions and the effect this had on a nearby town of Broxburn; showing real photographs of the men who went out to France and sadly those who did not make it back. ‘I enjoyed dressing up in the boys sailor outfit that they would have wore at the start of the century; personally I’m glad that we don’t have to wear that nowadays’ by Liam. ‘I enjoyed guessing what the purpose of some of the artefacts were such as the toasting fork; it was good to hold the objects and get a closer look’ by Zak. ‘I enjoyed looking closely at the range of War medals and learning why you would be presented with them and also learning about the Death Penny’ by Adam.

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We then learned a lot from our next expert, Tom from Edinburgh Museum at The Castle, where the presentation concentrated on WW1 with an insight especially into the Somme. Tom brought with him a large collection of artefacts as well as short clips to help us to imagine what war was like for soldiers in the trenches.  The children were able to dress in a variety of WW1 uniforms and re-enact some aspects of trench warfare. This was a terrific experience for the children. ‘I was surprised that he brought real WW1 rifles into class’ by Paulina. ‘I was surprised by the weight of all of the equipment that the soldiers had to carry when they went over the top of the trenches. I feel thankful to all of the men and women who suffered for our freedom’ by Hadia. ‘This was great because there were lots of different things to look at as well as the funny videos which allowed me to be absorbed in my learning’ by Riley.

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Our next experience was to visit The Lady Haig Poppy Factory in Edinburgh to meet real veterans. It was here that we also learned how to make poppies from the veterans and to see for ourselves just how worthwhile the Poppyscotland cause is. We also received a WW2 re- enactment with lots of artefacts to make the learning come to life as well as a real general from the army who had a very loud voice. We had the opportunity to create our own poppy wreath, ask questions and help to make poppies for next year’s appeal. ‘I really enjoyed making the poppies at the factory’ by Tegan. ‘I enjoyed hearing the real air raid siren which was very, very loud!’ by Sophie.

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Our final experience was then to have local community member Alan Hamilton come into our class and share his experiences of modern warfare and his time as a soldier in Afghanistan. He brought in a fantastic power point showing his own story which was very educational and also made the children realise that war is real! ‘I enjoyed hearing his funny stories like when his friend fell down a hole in the dark and they didn’t know how he had disappeared’ By Toby. ‘I found it scary when he told the story of being in the helicopter and being fired at as well as when his car was blown up when driving’ By Riley. ‘I feel really thankful to men and women like Alan who both in the past and today risk their lives for their country’ by Baillie.

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All of the above experiences, backed with classroom investigations using the Poppy Scotland clips and links, gave the children a holistic view of Remembrance. At home children were challenged to find a war poem to share with the class, an image that they think depicts war, take a photograph of the Poppy appeal in their local community, design an outfit to showcase the poppy (leading on from the advert how do you wear yours?) and their big homework task was to research any war that they wanted to know more about by creating a list of questions, answering these and then feeding back to the class – many children presented this using power point. We had a variety of wars from WW1 and 2 to the Cold War and a variety of civil wars. All of these tasks were used in our assembly. ‘In comparison with other topics; I thought this was a great way to learn as it was more interative and interesting’ by Toby and Liam. ‘I found learning in this way easier to understand than simply reading about it off of text or writing facts down’ by Sophie. ‘I enjoyed using all of my knowledge to create a homefront letter; imagining how soldiers would feel when at war’ by Adam.

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Finally we created an assembly based on the T.V. show ‘This Morning’ with all of our learning integrated throughout as well as littered with adverts and clips about the charity. ‘Holly’ and ‘Phil’ interviewed Poppy Scotland to find out all about the charity as well as Poppy’s early days welcoming guests such as John McCrae and Moina Michael in a ‘This is Your Life’ type moment. We then brought the charity back up to date when ‘Lorraine Kelly’ held the Poppy fashion show allowing children to show off their creations in a cat walk fashion (using the how do you wear yours? advert). We honoured the centenary of the Somme and had ‘Live’ reports from Thiepvale, France with ‘live footage’ showing the monument, commemorations and news reports. From there we then had a ‘tribute’ from Riverside Primary School where the pupils shared their learning experiences to ‘Holly’ and ‘Phil’, shared a homefront letter, as well as a ‘live’ interview from the Lady Haig Poppy Factory (that we shot when there), we shared our opinions as pupils why it is important still today as it was 100 years ago to support the troops (linking this to the new Rethink Remembrance Campaign) and then finally we held our 1 minute silence with the school and laid our own poppy wreath.’