Teachers' notes: Transport

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The following activities provide ways for pupils to explore and better understand different types of transport around the time of World War One.

Pupils will have the chance to work with primary source materials to conduct their own research.

Gas-bag cars

Subjects: English, art and design, science, design and technology

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Soldiers wave from train window



Although many vehicles were motorised at the start of the war, creativity was required as fuel became scarce and expensive. Pupils could discuss how airships might have inspired some car and bus owners to keep their vehicles running during the war.

The children could search online for period photographs of some of these vehicles. The online British Pathé archive has a piece of newsreel from the period showing a gas-powered van.

The newsreel is from the silent era. You could ask a group of pupils to research and script a commentary. They could then replay the newsreel and read out their commentary as the clip unfolds.

Using a variety of materials, the children could go on to explore how air might be used to move a small wheeled vehicle in a classroom setting. They could try various methods and record the results for comparison.

Make a variety of materials available for experimentation, such as straws, paper, drawing pins (for windmills), bicycle pumps, plastic bottles, balloons, bottle caps, cardboard cartons and toy cars.

Wartime transport

A tram



Subjects: art and design, history

In the first two decades of the 20th century, modes of travel and the operation of transport changed dramatically.

Pupils could design an illustrated notice-board on the theme of Transport in World War One, perhaps with their own town or city as the focus. They could include a timeline from the start of the century, showing the changes in transport from horse-drawn to motorised vehicles.

They could also make a note of the alternatives (for example pedal bikes) used during the war years because of petrol shortages.

The class might also explore the jobs associated with various types of transport and the changes the war brought to these roles.

The horse's tale

Subjects: English, history, personal development

horses on a busy street

Pupils could search online photo archives for images of horses at work in the early 1900s or on the home front during the war years. For example, the People's Collection at the Beamish Museum has a wide variety of pictures to browse.

The real war horses

Matt Baker

Ask the children to choose a photo of a horse. They should aim to tell this one horse's story and write about his journey as he might tell it. Perhaps he is a town horse used to pulling a delivery cart on cobbled streets, too old to go to war and now sent to work on a farm. Or perhaps he is a farm horse, not chosen by the army, but brought to the city to help with deliveries because of the petrol shortage.

Encourage the children to reflect upon how the horse might cope with the changes to his life. What is it like to be separated from familiar things? What new experiences does the horse face? How does he feel about all the upheaval? What does he learn?

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