Remembering Passchendaele

Issue: Volume 96, Number 16

Posted: 11 September 2017
Reference #: 1H9ecc

A challenge to create a curriculum resource about New Zealand’s role in the Battle of Passchendaele was this year met by secondary students across the country. Creators of three winning websites will travel to Belgium to attend the 100th anniversary commemorations of this part of World War I.

Dark days. Blood and mud. Fear and confusion.

Ten secondary students will reflect on history as they stand on the battlefield where hundreds of New Zealand soldiers fought and died 100 years ago.

The winners of The Battle of Passchendaele competition, organised by the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Fields of Remembrance Trust and the Passchendaele Society, will fly to Belgium to attend the 100th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of Passchendaele.

The competition involved using digital technologies to design and create a curriculum resource that could be used for students in years 7–10. The three winning resources were websites that included interactive elements such as social media links.

The panel of judges, led by Dame Karen Sewell, Chair of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, said they were very impressed by the high quality of the entries, the thought that went into them, the range of ideas and methods, the innovative use of digital technology and the consideration of other perspectives.

The winners are Alyssa Mae Pineda, Kayla Kautai, Mairaatea Mohi, Atawhai Ngatai and Keighley Jones from Rotorua Girls’ High School, Alexandra Lay from St Margaret’s College, Christchurch, and St Paul’s Collegiate, Hamilton students Dylan Woodhouse, Tony Wu, Lucy Tustin and Conor Horrigan.

These students will travel to Belgium on 7 October 2017 to attend the National Commemoration Service at the Tyne Cot Cemetery near Zonnebeke in West Flanders on 12 October. They will also attend the opening of the New Zealand Memorial and Garden in Belgium, visit Paris and tour the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam before returning to New Zealand.

Discover Passchendaele

Alexandra Lay is a year 12 student at St Margaret’s College in Christchurch. Her website Discover Passchendaele takes the form of an interactive map, with each point leading to a wealth of information about interesting aspects of the battle – from the role of women to the grim reality of trench life, complete with evocative sound effects, poetry and 360-degree views.

Alexandra is thrilled to be travelling to Belgium to attend the commemorations.

Blood & Mud by students at St Paul’s Collegiate, Hamilton.

“It is an incredible privilege to represent New Zealand and I feel very honoured to be able to visit the place I have studied so much about,” she says.

“Everywhere in New Zealand the effects of World War I remain, and I think it is so important that young people remember the sacrifices that were made by people not much older than themselves 100 years ago. The world continues to face the challenges of violence and war and it seems that we struggle to learn from the lessons of the past. This is why I believe commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele, with both its futility and great sacrifice, serves to remind us of the importance of working for peace.”

Alexandra believes the digital resource she has created will allow younger students to engage with the history in a new way.

“While NZ History and other sites are wonderfully content-rich, their traditional format means they may not be as accessible for younger students, so it was a great challenge exploring ways to create a website that would be engaging and relevant for a younger audience,” she explains.

“An additional challenge was the need to address the different requirements of each target group within years 7–10, while not being superficial about very serious subject matter. I was also interested in engaging the perspective of new New Zealanders for whom World War I wouldn’t necessarily have immediate significance.”

Alexandra’s history teacher Helen McDonald says the website’s design will make it a good learning tool for younger students.

“Alexandra’s website is so easy to navigate and it’s actually part of the appeal for younger students. The photographs she has included provide an important insight into the conditions faced by the soldiers and really brings home the terrible experience of war,” she says.

“I personally think it is important for everybody to know about World War I and our military history, not just young people. These are the stories of our ancestors and a lesson we must all learn from to prevent such atrocities in the future.”

Blood & Mud

The judging panel praised the “provocative questions” raised by St Paul’s Collegiate students Lucy Tustin, Tony Wu, Conor Horrigan and Dylan Woodhouse.

The group’s winning entry Blood & Mud is an interactive website with a wealth of information about the battle and its wider historical context.

The resource features extensive information about planes, tanks and weapons, as well as profiles of New Zealand soldiers, and related learning activities.

HOD history Defyd Williams says the site made by his students reflect their social media and ICT skills.

“The site appeals to the target audience and we have had lots of positive feedback from intermediate and junior departments in high schools,” he says.

The website format they chose allowed them to display aspects of the battle in a very vibrant, striking manner.

“High-definition photographs of the muddy trenches at Passchendaele showed our students how terrible the conditions really were, as did our footage at the front of our website. These technologies could show the true nature of the Battle of Passchendaele in a way a book never could, and was something that many students we showed the website to were surprised by.

“The group managed to simplify complex battles and created many interactive elements, including the trial of Field Marshall Haig. We were also able to publicise the ‘Adopt an ANZAC’ idea, an important citizen science project,” says Defyd.

Year 12 student Conor Horrigan says the trip to Belgium will extend the group’s understanding of what happened there.

“As our knowledge (of Passchendaele) grew, we came to understand why this battle was such a failure, how horrendous the conditions were, and most importantly, how it shaped a young country during a vital time period. We feel we displayed this information really well through the creation of our website, which students younger than us will find accessible and useful.

“I am really excited that we can now explore New Zealand history hands-on, beyond what we have learned in class,” he says.

“You could say our group has a passion for Passchendaele. We want to examine New Zealand’s past in reverential detail,” says student Tony Wu.

The Missed

A website designed by Rotorua Girls’ High School students called The Missed involves a scrolling menu of pages detailing different aspects of the battle, information in te reo Māori and learning activities.

The students say the website’s name has a multifaceted meaning.

“It kind of had a few meanings, we miss the soldiers but the people that died at Passchendaele are also overlooked,” says Alyssa.

Keighley said it was also something they felt had been missed in their education.

The girls are thrilled with their win, and feel proud of what they have achieved.

“As clichéd as this may sound, yes, it really does mean a lot to us to know that all of our hard work has paid off,” says Alyssa.

“We think that the most challenging thing was finding the time within our schedule to collaborate, as at the same time we were all very busy with our school production.

“We were really intrigued about the history of the Battle of Passchendaele as we haven’t really heard much about it in comparison to learning about Gallipoli in our school. Hearing about this competition, we found it a good way to learn more about it.”

Rotorua Girls’ High School assistant head of humanities Jo-Anne Vari says the engaging nature of her students’ website made it special.

“Interactive websites like this are becomingly increasingly important in our digital age,” she says.

“We need to have digital tools that are not only engaging, but also enhance learning. I think our students have created a digital tool that seeks to include the same information as a history textbook but with its moving pictures and links to quizzes and other sites, it is more appealing to today’s learners.”

The fact that it has also been translated into te reo Māori makes it particularly special, she says.

“This makes the learning on the site easily available to those learners for whom Māori is the first language. Currently, there seems to be a gap in the development of digital technologies aimed at enhancing the learning in history and social studies of students who have entered mainstream schools from kura kaupapa Māori. So our students have made a valuable contribution in this area.”

Like Helen McDonald, Jo-Anne believes New Zealand’s involvement in World War I is an important part of the the humanities curriculum.

“Stories of wars are about people and societies and can give us insights into the human experience, and sometimes into our own family experiences. Learning about this history also helps students to understand global relationships and trends, and massive changes in the world.”

The winning websites can be found at: link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:15 am, 11 September 2017

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