Okehampton College Discovers London Day 5 We had our breakfast, packed and tidied our rooms. I accompanied the Hostel duty manager checking the rooms and was proud to receive the compliments she gave us: ‘their [the students’] rooms are spotless; it’s like they’ve never been here. Usually there is mess all over the floor. I wish all the teachers we have coming here were like yours; most just let their kids trash the rooms and leave us to sort it all out… What does that teach them?’. We strolled down to the Imperial War Museum where we were welcomed by Andrew, a historian who spent a little time introducing us to the Museum. He told us that that virtually all the exhibits in the museum have been used in battle, and within moments of entering the Museum’s main gallery, we saw Russian and German tanks from WWII, artillery from WWI, the manacled and twisted remains of a car that was used as a car bomb in Baghdad, a Press Jeep used for journalists covering the conflict in Afghanistan riddled with bullet holes… We saw a V1 missile, otherwise known as a Doodlebug, that the Nazis used in WWII, and which was the world’s first attempt at a jet engine. Alongside that, we saw the imposing V2 missile, developed by the Nazis to address the poor accuracy of the V1, and which was the world’s first attempt at a rocket engine with a guidance system. Andrew caused us to reflect on the fact that so much of the modern technology we know and take for granted today has come about after experimentation in the fields of War. Above our heads was a Spitfire that had flown 57 missions, mostly in the Battle of Britain, and had 13 pilots, only 6 of whom survived the War. Alongside it and above us was a modern-day fighter jet that had also seen action, in Afghanistan. I admit to being a little nervous as I led students to the WWI gallery, because it is arguably one of the most powerful and moving exhibits in London, and the main reason I wanted to bring them here. I really wanted the children to genuinely engage with it, to be affected by it. To this end I encouraged the children to take their time around the gallery and to read, read read read what was around them*: The letters of soldiers to their families, the letters of soldiers to the families of their comrades killed in action, the diaries of soldiers reflecting on their experiences, the letters of children to their fathers on the front line, the letter of a 9yo boy to Lord Kitchener asking to be allowed to join the fight on the front line because ‘I can ride jolley [sic] quick on my bicycle [and] often win a fight with lads twice as big as myself’, David Llloyd George’s ‘Road Hogs of Europe’ speech, the sarcastic notes passed with white feathers to men who stayed at home, the newspapers of the time from both sides stoking hatred of the enemy, the slogans on the badges the people wore in Germany saying ‘Gott strafe England’ (‘May God punish England’), which replaced ‘Guten Tag’ (‘Good day’) as the common greeting of the time… (*For a flavour, I have added some photos taken of some of the quotes that lead you around the gallery.) It was again a sincere privilege to watch the children react to the exhibit, to try and achieve what I personally find nigh on impossible: to make sense of it all. Ms Loud and I were bombarded with questions, about how the War started, and why, and what did it achieve, and why was there a second World War so soon after, etc. etc., I channelled my inner Mr Rodgers as best I could, but couldn’t help wishing that he was here to give these questions the real justice they deserved. I chatted with students about the treaty of Versailles, and its consequences, as we looked at a doodle drawn by Lloyd George during a meeting to agree the terms of the Armistice. Despite having visited the museum on numerous occasions, I never fail to be affected by this exhibit, by its beautiful curation that combines striking objects with the profound power of the written word to tell the story of the war. At one point a student approached me, wanting to ask me something I assume, but I fear she may have noticed the tears in my eyes as I was reading the letter of a solider to the wife of his dead commanding officer, so she thoughtfully turned on her heels and left me to it. We visited the rest of the museum, the WWII gallery, the ‘Extraordinary Heroes’ gallery celebrating the recipients of the Victoria and George Crosses that told their amazing stories, a temporary exhibit entitled ‘Culture Under Attack’ telling the extraordinary story of the lengths museums and galleries went to during WWII to protect their works of art and objects from enemy bombing, the ‘Turning Points 1934-1945’ gallery that explores key moments in WWII, the gallery exploring nuclear warfare, and the gallery exploring more recent conflicts and terrorism that holds a pieces of twisted metal from the World Trade Centre attacks on 11 September 2001 in New York. We said thank you to the museum staff and made our way back to Victoria Coach station. The children were again excellent navigating their way through the tube system with their luggage, standing safely on the right-hand side of the escalators, standing at the wall on the platforms so as not to interrupt the flow of other passengers, and walking safely and considerately through the tourist-heavy streets from Victoria Station to the Coach Station. I wanted this little visit to give students a flavour of their Capital, and as authentic an experience of London as is realistically possible given the time we had, their ages, and whilst still enjoying their time here! I wanted students to be able to compare their rural life and upbringing, to that of a child being brought up in an urban environment. I wanted the experience to invoke reactions that would perhaps cause students to reflect on their own burgeoning outlook on life. I wanted students to ask questions about how we live, and tried to give them unfamiliar experiences; to expose them to diversity of culture and socio-economic circumstance, to expose them to — and challenge them through — art and politics and history and travel and geography and science. I wanted them to see the beauty in this city, aesthetically and culturally, but I also wanted them to know some of its ugliness — there were a number of stabbings in the city during the time we were there, for example, which I discussed with them, and in going about our daily business we also walked in the very spots where the last two terrorist attacks on London have taken place, which I pointed out to the students and discussed with them. I’m not sure if I entirely succeeded in everything I set out to, but it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to try, and I want to thank the students for coming along, and their families for allowing them.
Okehampton College Discovers London Day 5 We had our breakfast, packed and tidied our rooms. I accompanied the Hostel duty manager checking the rooms and was proud to receive the compliments she gave us: ‘their [the students’] rooms are spotless; it’s like they’ve never been here. Usually there is mess all over the floor. I wish all the teachers we have coming here were like yours; most just let their kids trash the rooms and leave us to sort it all out… What does that teach them?’. We strolled down to the Imperial War Museum where we were welcomed by Andrew, a historian who spent a little time introducing us to the Museum. He told us that that virtually all the exhibits in the museum have been used in battle, and within moments of entering the Museum’s main gallery, we saw Russian and German tanks from WWII, artillery from WWI, the manacled and twisted remains of a car that was used as a car bomb in Baghdad, a Press Jeep used for journalists covering the conflict in Afghanistan riddled with bullet holes… We saw a V1 missile, otherwise known as a Doodlebug, that the Nazis used in WWII, and which was the world’s first attempt at a jet engine. Alongside that, we saw the imposing V2 missile, developed by the Nazis to address the poor accuracy of the V1, and which was the world’s first attempt at a rocket engine with a guidance system. Andrew caused us to reflect on the fact that so much of the modern technology we know and take for granted today has come about after experimentation in the fields of War. Above our heads was a Spitfire that had flown 57 missions, mostly in the Battle of Britain, and had 13 pilots, only 6 of whom survived the War. Alongside it and above us was a modern-day fighter jet that had also seen action, in Afghanistan. I admit to being a little nervous as I led students to the WWI gallery, because it is arguably one of the most powerful and moving exhibits in London, and the main reason I wanted to bring them here. I really wanted the children to genuinely engage with it, to be affected by it. To this end I encouraged the children to take their time around the gallery and to read, read read read what was around them*: The letters of soldiers to their families, the letters of soldiers to the families of their comrades killed in action, the diaries of soldiers reflecting on their experiences, the letters of children to their fathers on the front line, the letter of a 9yo boy to Lord Kitchener asking to be allowed to join the fight on the front line because ‘I can ride jolley [sic] quick on my bicycle [and] often win a fight with lads twice as big as myself’, David Llloyd George’s ‘Road Hogs of Europe’ speech, the sarcastic notes passed with white feathers to men who stayed at home, the newspapers of the time from both sides stoking hatred of the enemy, the slogans on the badges the people wore in Germany saying ‘Gott strafe England’ (‘May God punish England’), which replaced ‘Guten Tag’ (‘Good day’) as the common greeting of the time… (*For a flavour, I have added some photos taken of some of the quotes that lead you around the gallery.) It was again a sincere privilege to watch the children react to the exhibit, to try and achieve what I personally find nigh on impossible: to make sense of it all. Ms Loud and I were bombarded with questions, about how the War started, and why, and what did it achieve, and why was there a second World War so soon after, etc. etc., I channelled my inner Mr Rodgers as best I could, but couldn’t help wishing that he was here to give these questions the real justice they deserved. I chatted with students about the treaty of Versailles, and its consequences, as we looked at a doodle drawn by Lloyd George during a meeting to agree the terms of the Armistice. Despite having visited the museum on numerous occasions, I never fail to be affected by this exhibit, by its beautiful curation that combines striking objects with the profound power of the written word to tell the story of the war. At one point a student approached me, wanting to ask me something I assume, but I fear she may have noticed the tears in my eyes as I was reading the letter of a solider to the wife of his dead commanding officer, so she thoughtfully turned on her heels and left me to it. We visited the rest of the museum, the WWII gallery, the ‘Extraordinary Heroes’ gallery celebrating the recipients of the Victoria and George Crosses that told their amazing stories, a temporary exhibit entitled ‘Culture Under Attack’ telling the extraordinary story of the lengths museums and galleries went to during WWII to protect their works of art and objects from enemy bombing, the ‘Turning Points 1934-1945’ gallery that explores key moments in WWII, the gallery exploring nuclear warfare, and the gallery exploring more recent conflicts and terrorism that holds a pieces of twisted metal from the World Trade Centre attacks on 11 September 2001 in New York. We said thank you to the museum staff and made our way back to Victoria Coach station. The children were again excellent navigating their way through the tube system with their luggage, standing safely on the right-hand side of the escalators, standing at the wall on the platforms so as not to interrupt the flow of other passengers, and walking safely and considerately through the tourist-heavy streets from Victoria Station to the Coach Station. I wanted this little visit to give students a flavour of their Capital, and as authentic an experience of London as is realistically possible given the time we had, their ages, and whilst still enjoying their time here! I wanted students to be able to compare their rural life and upbringing, to that of a child being brought up in an urban environment. I wanted the experience to invoke reactions that would perhaps cause students to reflect on their own burgeoning outlook on life. I wanted students to ask questions about how we live, and tried to give them unfamiliar experiences; to expose them to diversity of culture and socio-economic circumstance, to expose them to — and challenge them through — art and politics and history and travel and geography and science. I wanted them to see the beauty in this city, aesthetically and culturally, but I also wanted them to know some of its ugliness — there were a number of stabbings in the city during the time we were there, for example, which I discussed with them, and in going about our daily business we also walked in the very spots where the last two terrorist attacks on London have taken place, which I pointed out to the students and discussed with them. I’m not sure if I entirely succeeded in everything I set out to, but it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to try, and I want to thank the students for coming along, and their families for allowing them.