Shared Histories: collaborative distance inquiry in action

Issue: Volume 95, Number 19

Posted: 25 October 2016
Reference #: 1H9d4w

The intention of the Shared Histories project is to provide students with the opportunity to personally discover the impact of World War I on the countries involved.

Young ambassadors memorial service in Longueval, France

Shared Histories is a school programme to mark the commemoration of World War I.

Initiated in 2014 by the Embassies of France in New Zealand and Australia, Shared Histories runs in partnership with the French Ministry of Education, the New Zealand Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Association of French Teachers.

Intermediate and secondary schools in France, New Zealand, Australia, the Cook Islands and New Caledonia are invited to engage in collaborative projects on the theme of World War I as part of the Shared Histories programme.

The Shared Histories programme offers a framework and a vehicle for schools to explore together the human and cultural significance of this common piece of history.

The intention of the programme is to provide students with the opportunity to discover the profound significance and impact of the sacrifices made by participating countries and territories, through being active in the duty of remembrance, using language and cultural skills, and creating lasting relationships.

Twenty nine school partnerships have been created and active since it started. An open-access platform, supports the development and visibility of these projects. It is also an interactive portal, where schools can meet partners, develop the outline of their collaborative project and register it as part of the programme.

Thanks to the support of the various project partners, New Zealand schools can apply to the Shared Histories fund to support the development of their registered project.

Each partner school keeps a journal of the development of their projects in the form of regular blogposts published on the Shared Histories website(external link)

This encourages partners to focus on the process of collaboration rather than the product. Many partnerships have iterated on their initial project outline and leveraged opportunities that have come along the way to produce significant pieces.

Some examples of projects so far include: 

  • La Bataille de La Conscience/The Battle of Conscience – first bilingual e-book on Auckland Library online catalogue and exhibition at Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre – Baradene College of the Sacred Heart (Auckland NZ) and Lycée Jean Macé (Chauny France)

  • Mini-memorials (Arts) – co-created by Long Bay College (Auckland NZ) and Collège de Meyssac (France)

  • Organisation of a bilingual concert – St Peter’s (Auckland NZ) and Collège de Monod (Compiègne France)

  • Bittersweet memories Great War Recipes Bilingual book – St Margaret’s College (Christchurch NZ) and Collège Etouvié (Amiens France)

  • Official twinning of the two towns and participation in an International Concert – Nga Tawa Diocesan (Marton NZ) and Collège Jules Ferry (Conty France)

For news and updates on all these projects, head to the Blog - Project section of the Shared Histories website(external link)

One common point between all Shared Histories projects is the opportunity for students and their teachers to engage with their school community: whānau, supporters, alumni, community groups, etc. The active involvement of these various groups is contributing to the success of the project, and much evidence of its effect is related in the blog posts.

Most have built very strong relationships with their partners, and have gone on to planning a physical exchange to build on the success of the virtual one.

New Zealand schools project leaders have invariably had success seeking support from colleagues across learning areas to add a real life dimension to their project, and the theme has allowed a natural cross-pollination of ideas often between humanities, languages and the arts, but not limited to those.

Of note for languages teachers, Shared Histories schools have reported an increase in engagement in their senior language programme when students with a passion for history or the arts were offered the opportunity to explore the relevance of languages in the context of World War I.

Young ambassadors

Visits to France and in particular to historic sites where New Zealand Divisions have fought have become a reality for some schools. And in a bid to strengthen relationships further, a second Young Ambassadors project was made possible through a collaboration of Embassy of France in New Zealand partners. The Young Ambassadors project runs in parallel with Shared Histories with a selection of specific project partners.

In September 2016 10 Young Ambassadors represented New Zealand at the 100th Anniversary of New Zealand involvement in the Battle of the Somme.

The 10 Young Ambassadors selected for their leadership potential and their high interest in and commitment to the Duty of Remembrance embarked on a two-week tour in September, just in time to be part of the 100th Anniversary of New Zealand involvement in the Battle of the Somme, to be celebrated at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval on 15 September 2016.

The Dawn Service and the National Service were organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and are an opportunity to commemorate the shared sacrifice one hundred years ago: the New Zealand Division lost 7,500 men on the Somme.

The two-week Battle of the Somme and Western Front Tour also included a welcome at Le Quesnoy town hall and a visit of the city where The New Zealand Division captured 2,000 Germans and sixty field guns in November 2018, as well as to Thiepval, the biggest memorial in the world.

The trip took them across the border to Belgium to attend the Menin Gate Ceremony and visit Messines. This village was taken by troops from the New Zealand Division.

Alongside visits, the Young Ambassadors were also welcomed at the Secretariat d’ Etat aux Anciens Combattants et à la Mémoire in Paris and met the Director of the Mission du Centenaire de la Première Guerre Mondiale. The Shared Histories programme has been awarded the ‘Label de La Mission du Centenaire’ recognising the value of its teaching and learning quality.

The Young Ambassadors were hosted in Arras by teachers and families of four schools (Lycée Gambetta-Carnot, Lycée Le Caron, Lycée Guy Mollet and Lycée Alain Savary) who have expressed a keen interest in joining in the Shared Histories programme. All 10 have documented their journey as Young Ambassadors since the selection was made in June.

Each developed personal projects to prepare for the tour. They are now reflecting on what they’ve learned, and these deeply personal journeys can be read on their individual blogs on the blog section of the Shared Histories website(external link)(external link)

They were really also Ambassadors of the Shared Histories project!

Each represented a different New Zealand school, from across the regions, and their mission consisted of finding a partner school for their school to build a Shared Histories project in 2017. So far there is confirmation that two schools (John Paul College in Rotorua and Shirley Boys’ High School) are engaging with host schools in Arras already.

Now is the time for New Zealand schools to take on the opportunity to start a Shared Histories project. The Call for Projects 2016–17 has been announced.

For more information visit the Shared Histories website(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:45 pm, 25 October 2016

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts