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15 October 2014
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About This Site > Learning Zone > Community Groups: Remembrance

Activities for Community Groups: Remembrance

These activities are designed to be introduced by youth workers and other leaders of children's and young people's groups. They can be used as part of learning activities, drama presentations and community work.

These activities draw on story extracts from the Archive. Story extract titles appear in bold in the activities below, eg A Child Remembers the Outbreak of War. These extracts can be found on the Story Extracts page.

Remembrance Day

Activity 1

Write on the board this quotation from 'Meditation XVII' by John Donne:

'No man is an island, entire of itself; ... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind'

Discuss what the young people think the quotation means, and how it could be related to Remembrance Day. Encourage them to think about what individual words mean, and then put them together in order to decide upon the meaning.

This is a hard task and the young people will need support. The answers could include the idea that human beings do not live in isolation, without contact with other people - we all have a relationship with our friends and family, so we are upset when they are hurt or die. Donne argues that as humans we all have a relationship with every other human being, so he would be upset when anyone died. Therefore, the implication is that we should care about any human being who is suffering.

By the end of this task the young people should understand the idea that everyone is affected by war, because as humans we are upset by the death of any casualty of war. You can then link this to the importance of Remembrance Day.

In groups or all together, read out loud the extracts Death In Oosterbeek, The Telegram and D-Day and Belsen Concentration Camp, all available on the Story Extracts page.

The activity could be done without the third extract, as some young people may not be ready to deal with its difficult subject matter. Or you could explain in general terms that this is an extract from a nurse on the front line, without giving a detailed explanation.

Ask the young people to discuss the questions below once they have read the extracts.

Discuss ideas such as how a terrible shock can distort memory, or an event can be so traumatic that a person cannot talk about it, or can only talk about it in brief factual terms, excluding most crucial details. Link this to how it is important that we remember the people who were brave enough to record their stories on the WW2 People's War website.

Ask the group to think about why it is important that everyone is remembered. Introduce the phrase 'Lest we forget'. Ask the group to write an epitaph that is similar to this, that will reassure those who see it, and be a way of remembering those who suffered directly and indirectly in World War Two. They should write this on A4 paper. The finished epitaphs could be put in a frieze around a room, as part of a display for Remembrance Day.

Memories in photographs

Activity 2

Print up the photographs on the Story Extracts page and place them in a shoe box, or similar. Tell the group that in the course of moving house you found an old shoe box in your attic, with some photographs in it. You would like to build up a picture of who the people in the photographs were, because you think it sad that they appear to be forgotten. Split the young people into groups of three or four, and give each group two or three photographs (you could also add other items from the period - or photos of them - as clues), together with the task sheet below, to help them analyse the photographs.

Ask each group to present their ideas. This may take some time if you have a very imaginative group. You will need to question the young people constantly to ensure that they can support all their decisions with evidence from the photographs. At the end of this activity the group will discover that there is only limited information that you can deduce from the photographs taken in a given person's life, so that much of the story of that life has been lost. Link this to the importance of remembering and recording memories. Also point out that photographs can nevertheless reveal a great deal of information about the clothes and activities of a period.

Learning from the past

Activity 3

Split the young people into pairs, to read the whole poem Death in Oosterbeek, linked from the Story Extracts page. Ask the young people to read the poem again, and to put it in their own words as if it were a conversation with another World War Two veteran - for example: 'At dawn I remembered a boy with a kind face and smile who died in pretty woods near Oosterbeek.' The conversations will vary, and it is really worth encouraging the pairs to use their own words to ensure they fully understand the poem. Ask each pair to read out their version. Discuss the ideas of the importance of remembering conflict, and creating hope and forgiveness.

Ask each young person to pick a photograph, then to read the whole story that relates to their photograph. Links are available on the Story Extracts page. You need to look at the stories beforehand to assess whether they are suitable for the age and ability of the young people. Ask them to write a poem of remembrance and forgiveness to go with the photograph. Talk about the different types of poem. Point out that they do not necessarily have to rhyme.

Activity 3

'Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.' Discuss this quotation and what the young people think it means. You could move on to discuss why it is important that pupils and adults continue to learn about history, and to hold Remembrance Day events.

Importance of remembrance

Activity 4

Split the young people into groups of three or four. Ask them to read the extracts listed in Activity 1, and to look at the photographs. Ask the groups to act out, do a story-board or produce a presentation, as described in the task sheet below.

Finally, ask each group to give their presentation or show their story-board. These could be part of a remembrance event.

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