Year 7 Experience a 1940s History Lesson
On Monday a Year 7 class took part in a live interpretation of a 1940s History Lesson. A member of the Home Guard spoke to the students about various aspects of life during WW2, including the careers available to women and the times of threats they may have faced, before introducing them to their History teacher for a lesson on King Henry VIII. As they were about to begin, the start of an air-raid was signalled and they headed into the tunnels to continue with the lesson, just as they would have done at MGGS during the war. Once they received the all clear, the students had the opportunity to look and feel some wartime artefacts and replica bombs.
Huge thanks to CEMA – the Centre for Experimental Military Archeology – who took the lesson. Janice and Andy have been using first person interpretation, ‘living history’, in museum and historic house settings since the 1980s. The technique aims to
present the past from the point of view of someone from the period portrayed, giving a first-person viewpoint of the era. Each ‘character’ has a fully developed back story which informs what is said, how it is said and how they respond to the audience. As such there is no script and the performance is informed by the nature of what is being interpreted and the audience. It is usual to ‘break’ character’ at the end of a presentation so audience members can ask questions without feeling uncomfortable.
Andrew Robertshaw, BA, MA, PGCE, FSA
Originally a history teacher Andy moved to the National Army Museum where he became Head of Education in 1988. He left the Museum to become Director of The Royal Logistic Corps Museum in 2007. In 2014 he worked for the BBC for a year as part of the centenary events of the Great War before becoming self-employed as a consultant for the television and film industries. His recent films include ‘1917’, ‘The King’s Man’ and ‘Mincemeat’. He is co-director of CEMA.
Janice Robertshaw, BA, MA, PGCE
Janice taught history for many years in London and Surrey. Before retirement she was a Deputy Head in a Surrey school. As an enthusiastic historian she seeks to bring history alive and demonstrate how the lives of women have changed over time.
We are hoping to do more work with them and to invite our wider community to get involved, when we open our WW2 Visitor Centre next year. Watch this space…
In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about MGGS during WW2, you can purchase a copy of A Schoolgirl’s War, written by former MGGS Headteacher – Mary Smith. The book is a fascinating and evocative record of school life in wartime bringing together an exquisite and unparalleled set of paintings of girls at school during WW2, and first-hand recollections of pupils who experienced disrupted schooling, air-raids, doodlebugs and lessons in underground shelters. MGGS art teacher Helen Keen set out to record the life of the school as the war unfolded. Her paintings have never been published before. Those pictures and the vivid memories of the old girls, now in their 80’s and 90’s, will move you and surprise you. Get your copy here.