Fields of Remembrance: packs to be delivered to schools and kura in March

Issue: Volume 94, Number 3

Posted: 23 February 2015
Reference #: 1H9cqW

“I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”
- King George V, Flanders, 1922

The Fields of Remembrance Trust, established to provide Kiwis with the opportunity to honour those who served their country in World War I, and the Ministry of Education have formed a partnership to support all schools and kura in commemorating the sacrifice of our veterans in the first modern war; a war that engulfed most of the planet.

The aim of the project is to provide an opportunity for schools and kura to establish their own field of white crosses. This is similar to the one that was an integral part of the commemorations at Parliament, to mark the start of the four-year World War I centenary. The Trust and the Ministry hope that getting students involved in what is a very hands-on commemoration will help to pass on the importance of remembering the impact that World War I had on what was a very new country.

The Trust has worked with many generous sponsors to enable all New Zealand schools and kura to participate in this commemoration initiative by providing over 80,000 white crosses and 12,500 posters.

During March, each school and kura will be given 30 white crosses to commemorate the men and women who died for New Zealand. Each cross will be named to include local soldiers and nurses; four New Zealand Victoria Cross recipients; the youngest New Zealander (aged 17); and an All Black captain. One of the crosses will be labelled with the words “known unto God” to commemorate the ‘unknown soldier’.

See the sidebar to this article for details on World War I cross-curriculum learning resources that are available.

ANZAC studies at Haumoana school

Haumoana School is situated close to Hawke’s Bay’s Cape Kidnappers, comprising seven permanent teachers and 160 pupils. The school describes itself as having a ‘country school ethic’, according to assistant principal Tony Chittendon:

“One study we always conduct with our Year 4, 5, and 6 classes is an examination of the ANZACs, which is usually about two weeks every year.

“The children might look at conditions in trenches, the dangers, the diseases; how we can prevent war; the outcomes of war; what food was eaten by soldiers; the impact on those left at home; a typical day in an ANZAC soldier’s life, and other themes.

“Why do we feel it’s important to participate in the Fields of Remembrance programme? Well, firstly the children enjoy participating in the variety of activities provided and the lessons are meaningful and in context. As a school we plan on placing the white crosses on a secluded grass area in front of the school, which can be seen by passers-by. We will have an assembly on the site, which will incorporate our wider community, on Friday 24 April in the morning, and then we’ll invite our parents and guests into the library for a well-deserved cup of tea, served by our Year 6 students.”

Some of the ANZAC history and Fields of Remembrance learning activities at Haumoana school

Mapwork: As part of reading we learn symbols and scale on maps by looking at the Dardenelles and Anzac Cove. We study maps of surrounding countries, and examine the alliances that made up the allies that New Zealand fought among, as well as the opposing countries.

Writing: Students compose their own poetry using themes like war, suffering, loneliness, fear, hunger. We share poems by well-known poets Rupert Brooke, John McRae and Rudyard Kipling. The children write diaries and letters imagining themselves to be soldiers living in the trenches.

Library reading: A display of books is provided for students to read, many of which we have accumulated ourselves. A perennial favourite is The Donkey Man, by Glyn Harper. In our classrooms there is a selection of texts for seniors to read, accumulated over the years.

Families are asked to share any wartime artefacts they may have. Pupils have brought along medals earned by grandfathers, old diaries, photos torn and yellowed with age, a drinking cup, badges, and once even an old piece of chocolate! These are put on display for children to read, touch and experience.

Music: We have a music teacher who teaches us old wartime songs - Any Old Iron, and There’s Something about a Soldier for example. These are sung during senior meeting times and at assembly.

Cooking: Students get a taste of Anzac biscuits by baking with parent help, or the class is involved in other groups that are preparing Anzac biscuits. We learn about the story of the Anzac biscuit, a rolled oats biscuit that was sent from home to the troops on the Western Front; a welcome respite from army issue biscuits, which were so hard they broke many soldiers’ teeth!

Samuel Marsden's Field of Rememberance

One school that has already made the most of the Fields of Remembrance concept to provide an authentic learning experience around World War I is Samuel Marsden Collegiate School for Girls.

Last year, the school’s Year 9 social science students set up their own Field of Remembrance in its grounds and each student chose a soldier to investigate and report on.

Fiona Crawford is head of humanities at Samuel Marsden’s Karori campus. She says that their Field of Remembrance made for a great way to connect her students with an event that was formative to New Zealand’s very identity, yet to young, modern eyes, can seem very distant in time.

Samuel Marsden’s Year 9 Field of Remembrance was in fact the culmination of a classroom learning programme.

“It was really about helping the students to forge a personal connection with one of the New Zealand soldiers. I think that they are going to be bombarded with commemorative stuff over the next four years, and I think that to encourage the students to investigate the life and experiences of one person brings the whole thing a bit closer to home. These were real people, not an army of anonymous faces,” says Fiona.

In the classroom

Many students were able to find, through persistent research, an ancestor of their own who fought in World War I; others chose someone who was from the same area of the country as them.

“One of our students chose to research a nurse who was actually on a boat that was heading to Greece, before being torpedoed by the Germans. What was really interesting was that the nurse was of German descent, so we had a great classroom conversation afterwards around how we as people remember our history when our own people haven’t necessarily been blame-free. It was really powerful.”

Students created a bio fact sheet on their soldier. They were asked to explain their reason for choosing a particular New Zealander.

Fiona says that the girls discovered that those who made it home deserve equally to be remembered, as in some cases their sacrifice didn’t end when they disembarked back in New Zealand.

“One of the girls talked about how the soldier she studied lost his kneecap from a gunshot wound. So he lost the use of his leg, and his whole life was affected. There were others who talked about how their particular ANZAC returned, but were traumatised and deeply affected for the rest of their lives by what they’d seen.

“I think in terms of learning, the students gained a better appreciation for how individuals are affected by international events. While there’s a tendency to think about things like war as the history of what politicians and war leaders did, the decisions they made that affected big groups of people, this is about focusing on an ordinary person. That’s very powerful, I think.”

Why wear a poppy?

“We have always been particularly moved by this poem being read out at our Anzac Day assembly; we often have bets as to which teacher can read it without breaking rhythm or having their voice crack up. It emphasises the message we wish to encourage within our school.” – Tony Chittendon, assistant principal, Haumoana School.

“Please wear a poppy,” the lady said,
And held one forth, but I shook my head,
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;
But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.


A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on carefree feet,
His smile was full of joy and fun:
“Lady,” said he, “May I have one?”
When she pinned it on he turned to say,
“Why do we wear a poppy today?”

The lady smiled in her wistful way,
And answered, “This is Remembrance Day,
And the poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant ones who died in war,
And because they did, you and I are free,
That’s why we wear the poppy, you see.

I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.
He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird he would race about.
As the years went by he learned and grew,
And became a man – as you will, too.

But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.
His letters told of the dreadful plight,
(I can see it still in my dreams at night)
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire, and the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.

Till at last, at last, the war was won –
And that’s why we wear a poppy, son.”
The small boy turned as if to go,
Then said, “Thanks lady, I’m glad to know,
That sure did sound like an awful fight,
But your son – did he come back all right?”

A tear rolled down each faded cheek:
She shook her head but didn’t speak.
I slunk away in a sort of shame,
And if you were me you’d have done the same: For our thanks, in giving, is oft delayed though our freedom was bought
And thousands paid.

And so when we see a poppy worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne,
By those who gave their very all,
When asked to answer their country’s call.
That we at home in peace might live.

Then wear a poppy,

And give.

Why Wear A Poppy? by Don Crawford

Why we chose Fields of Remembrance

Simon Kenny, Principal, Birchville School (Upper Hutt)
“At our school we have what we call the ‘Birchville GEMS’ - Growth, Empathy, Mana and Self-belief. These are our key values and we look for authentic ways for children to experience and learn about these concepts. We also have a school wide focus on whanaungatanga – relationships, and tangata whenuatanga - connections to places. We felt that having a Field of Remembrance would be an excellent vehicle we could use to explore the concepts of empathy and mana, whilst learning about connections to our local area.

“For us it’s about trying to help our students make connections to people and places from a time so incredibly different to the technology-driven world of today. We are hoping the discussions and the symbolism of a school Field of Remembrance will connect with them on a personal level and that their understandings of the sacrifices and loss are deepened through emotional connection.

“The information shared in the November Education Gazette was discussed at a staff meeting and we are all really excited about having a special place in our school dedicated to honouring and remembering those who fought for the freedoms we take for granted. We are hoping our students “feel” the experience as they learn about specific people and places rather than simply remembering facts and dates. The government education website(external link) is an excellent resource and the World War I online curriculum resources are definitely worth checking out.”

Robert Schuyt, Principal at Cust School (North Canterbury)
“We’re a small, rural community. We have a long-standing association with the Anzac service that’s run locally, and it’s growing all the time, which is great to see.

“Given that we’re commemorating the centenary of World War I, and given that one of the overarching themes at our school is belonging and whanaungatanga, Fields of Remembrance really ties in well with the Anzac service.

“We wanted to ‘up the ante’, and ensure that we were giving the children the opportunity to honour the service that our World War I veterans gave to this country, and examine the effects that that conflict had on a young nation, and the effects that remain today.

“We found out about Fields of Remembrance through the Education Gazette, and decided that the programme was right up our alley, because it gives the children a bit more of a meaningful way of learning about such a pivotal time in our history. It’s something that’s tangible that we can learn about in class, and it becomes a way the children can participate at the service.”

World War I online curriculum resources

With Fields of Remembrance being set up in schools and kura across the country in April this year, the curiosity of young people across the country about World War I will be well and truly sparked.

To feed that curiosity and provide starting points for learning, more online cross-curriculum resources are available in both Māori and English. These help students explore events and experiences of the World War I home front, the Pacific and the battlefield by presenting a “hook” to get their inquiry into aspects of the war started.

Using the curriculum resources and many other online sources, students can sketch out the lives of the men and women named on their school’s Field of Remembrance crosses. They can also investigate the other part of the war story for New Zealanders. What about the people who didn’t go to war – the families that stayed at home, the conscientious objectors, and some Māori? What were they told about the war – and what was kept from them?

Māori-medium resources explore the war’s impact on heritage and culture

The first Māori-medium resource packs are also now available. These uncover the impact of war on culture and identity, examine peaceful protest and put the spotlight on Māori in 1914. One resource for Year 9–10 looks at Taranaki and the war while another looks at waiata and poi that were composed during World War I.

Well-known academic Monty Soutar talks about the impact on small towns populated by Māori. Former Māori soldiers returned home ill and wounded but life had to go on. Dr Soutar discusses the different viewpoints of Māori – those who refused to fight for their recent British enemies and those who hoped to be treated equally and fairly through fighting for the British.

New English-medium resources explore truth, fiction and commemoration

In the English-medium resources, themes of commemoration and truth and fiction come under scrutiny. While the Fields of Remembrance in schools and kura project is one way of commemorating, the inquiry guides explore other commemorations including war memorials, an avenue of trees, our well known poppy, and the stunning and graphic The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red pictured above at the Tower of London.

The resources based on the theme of truth and fiction throw open the government communications of the day. These prompt students to see how the Government positioned the war to attract public support and recruit more soldiers.
You can find the resources at the Te Kete Ipurangi site(external link)

The curriculum resources are a joint partnership between the Ministry of Education and the National Library of New Zealand Services to Schools with input from teachers and the WW100 Programme Office.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:14 AM, 23 February 2015

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