Memorials and the way that they represent past events are shaped by ‘the politics of the present’.
They are as much about the beliefs and values of the people who commissioned and designed them as they are about the event they commemorate. In this sense ‘memorials do not symbolise history’.
Instead they symbolise the relationship the people who ‘made’ them have with that history.
As such memorials offer:
• a very rich and focussed way into exploring the complicated concept of historical interpretations.
• an opportunity to explore history in an unusual, interesting and creative way.
• a real opportunity to link work in History to other curriculum areas in a meaningful manner and
to integrate key Personal Learning and Thinking Skills (such as critical and creative thinking,
independent enquiry and effective participation) into lesson plans.
• Where, when and why have the British Armed Forces served in conflicts overseas?
• Where, how and why have conflicts been remembered?
• How do we find out about a particular conflict?
• How do we create a memorial for a particular conflict?
• Why should our memorial be built?
• To what extent is the National Memorial Arboretum’s vision different from your own?
Seven ‘mini’ enquiries feed into the overarching enquiry ‘How do post-1945 conflicts deserve to be remembered?’ The over-arching enquiry question, and each of the mini-enquiries, is focussed on the theme of memorials and how they:
• represent the past.
• reflect the values of the society that builds them (the influence of ‘the politics of the present’).
• shape subsequent interpretations of the events they commemorate.
Pupils study memorials from a range of time periods and different localities in order to design their own memorial for a post-1945 conflict they have researched and wish to commemorate.
The main focus for the learning journey followed by the pupils is post-1945 conflict. This historical period is the focus for their major research task (Enquiry 4) and their memorial design (Enquiry 5). However, in Enquiry 1 pupils gain an overview of all the main conflicts Britain has been involved in since 1066. This is important, because pupils need a strong and secure chronological framework in order to make links across different periods of history and to operate at a higher level in history.
In Enquiries 2 and 3 the focus is on memorials from 1800 to the present day in their local area and in
a contrasting locality (in the case of this scheme of work, I used London). Similarly, the project
extends pupils understanding of conflict and memorials associated with that conflict geographically
as well as chronologically.
In Enquiry 5, pupils explore memorials from around the world. Memorials from various places commemorating the Second World War, the Holocaust and Ancient History are used to develop pupils’ understanding of:
• how memorials evolve.
• the variety of forms that they can take.
• how they can be used to portray very powerful messages about the past and thus shape present day
The memorials from Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary provide an important stepping
stone on route to pupils designing their own memorial. They act as a stimulus for design ideas, inspiring pupils and opening up their eyes to the variety of forms that a memorial can take and
the powerful messages they can convey.
Learning Outside the classroom:
Pupils need to be provided with regular opportunities to visit historical sites, museums and galleries. The 2008 National Curriculum for History states that pupils should be provided with curriculum opportunities to:
• explore the ways in which the past has helped shape identities, shared cultures, values and attitudes.
• investigate aspects of personal, family or local history and how they relate to a broader historical
• appreciate and evaluate, through visits where possible, the role of museums, galleries, archives
and historic sites in preserving, presenting and influencing people’s attitudes towards the past.
During the summer term, pupils involved in the project will have the opportunity to take part in several site visits. Initially, as part of Enquiry 2 they will explore memorials in their local area.
During Enquiry 3, they will visit London in order to map how our capital memorialises the past and
to make comparisons with how conflicts/events/people are represented through memorials in their own locality. Finally, they will visit the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire at the end of the project (Enquiry 7). This will enable pupils to compare how their own design for the post-1945 conflict they have commemorated with the way that this conflict has been interpreted and represented at the Arboretum.
I regard site visits as being a crucial part of the learning experience. They will provide pupils with an opportunity to observe and record how people interact with the memorials. Most of the literature on memorialisation analyses the way in which memorials are constructed as opposed to how they are received, yet how people interact with memorials and how they are received by the public is important. A key strand of the pupils’ research into memorials in their locality, London and at the Arboretum,
will be on how people visiting or passing these sites respond to the memorial, thus placing an equal emphasis on reception as well as the construction of the memorial.
During Enquiry 4, interviews with veterans of post-1945 conflicts is a key part of the research. Similarly pupils will have opportunities to interview architects and builders during the design stage
of the project (Enquiry 5).
I regard the interviews with veterans as being a crucial stage in the learning journey for pupils. It is easier for many of us to connect to historical events through individual stories. The experiences of talking to veterans will provide pupils with a far deeper understanding of key historical events. The opportunities to interview veterans and people whom lived through post-1945 conflicts will motivate and inspire pupils and at the same time lead to a deeper empathetic connection to the event that they are researching. This greater sense of empathy and richer contextual knowledge will clearly enhance the design process and should lead to more appropriate and creative responses to their chosen conflict.
On any page,
a click on the red wreath
will take you to the
main resource section
Click on a blue link to enter the scheme of work