‘How the past is remembered’ can still be a controversial issue. Copleston High School aims
to explore the reasons why by linking together learning in History and Geography.

We have selected a diverse group of students for this work. The contextual learning within
subjects will be completed by a group of students who need to improve basic skills and literacy. Many of these are part of our SEN programme and some receive additional support for reading
and literacy. It will be their task to explore the idea of remembrance through History and Geography and come up with ideas about how the past should be remembered. A second group of students will work alongside them. They are our Gifted and Talented students in Art, Design and English. It will be down to them to translate the ideas from the subject group into a fully functioning design, one that is both striking and realistic.

Our project will be launched with an afternoon of activities where students can begin to understand the complex relationship between the History, Geography and Remembrance. The opening task
will be to look at a recent court case of a young man given 200 hours of community service for urinating on a historical monument. Students will be asked to debate whether this was mostly a crime against history or the environment. From this initial task, students will be asked to follow different lines of enquiry that explore the links between the two subjects and remembrance. For example, one group will look at the recent controversy over plans to put a much needed motorway across the significant Great War site of Passchendaele. We will also be working with students on getting to grips with what makes groups work and what makes them effective. Students will complete a skills audit and form their own groups after negotiation with each other (this is largely based on the excellent research by Tom Kelley into creative organizations and groups, see this
blog post for a full discussion and resources:

While students are creating a living graph overview of the key conflicts since 1945 in History,
they will be mapping these in Geography and trying to decide if there are any patterns that emerge. Using various hypotheses and overlays, students will work through the problem ‘Why do conflicts occur?’ and try to come up with a series of answers. The ideas of Empire and politics will be discussed to help students in their enquiry and decision making. The aim is for students to build
up a hypothesis about what the main conflicts were and why they occurred, as this will start them thinking about what needs to be remembered. We will spend several lessons on this overview so
that students can become familiar with the images of post-45 warfare and get to grips with the language of the topic.

Then, students will move on to look at the details of conflicts and make decisions about
significance. We plan to analyse local and national narratives and look closely at conflicts that involved the Royal Anglian Regiment. Students will have to determine whether focusing on the
local regiment will leave any gaping holes in the national story of post-1945 conflicts.

In Geography lessons students will determine how geographical location can affect a conflict.
For this part of the project, we are hoping to work with an ex-Army officer with combat
experience, who can help students with their work. The emphasis will be on planning conflict and invasion and how targets are selected and dealt with. Also, students will explore the hardships soldiers face when in a combat zone and what strategies they use to cope.

At this point, students will have time to reflect on their investigation and will begin to develop
ideas about what their memorial might commemorate. They will also revisit their overview and adjust it to reflect their findings – we are keen to show students that enquiries are never static and that ideas can develop and change as new evidence becomes available.

When students are moving on to the design phase of the project, they will be asked to consider a range of factors. Some will be historical and involve discussion about what needs to be remembered about a conflict, whereas others will be geographical, like where should the site be for such a memorial. The two groups will at this point be working together quite closely and exploring key ideas about location and materials as well as the main focus of the memorial itself. We intend to use the recently constructed Nottingham Contemporary Gallery as an example of an urban structure that blends historical and geographical influences and the National Memorial Arboretum site to show rural projects. This will take place before engaging students in a genuine debate about rural versus urban memorials. Two of our governors with local government experience will work with students to build presentations on the issue. All the work in this section will then help to inform the Gifted and Talented group who will be finalizing the project design.

To round off the project, students will be asked to develop and manage a fundraising day to gather
a donation for the National Memorial Arboretum. They will be given a date in June and asked to plan a series of activities that will encourage the others to think about and give money to the National Memorial Arboretum. The aim will be to raise £1000 before our visit to Alrewas in July so that the students can present a cheque during our visit.  

Cat Pearson (Geography)
Neal Watkin (History)
Copleston High School

Andrew Wrenn: “Prior to Copleston’s visit to the National Memorial Arboretum, pupils
visited a little-known cemetery containing German war graves at Cannock Chase. After the trip rather than design individual memorials to particular conflicts, it was intended that pupils
contribute to a memorial commemorating conflicts since 1945 which they would present as a
design for erection in Ipswich itself.”