Students, no matter what their level of curiosity, can struggle to come to terms with the history of WWII due to the fact that the battles fought and conditions endured were so long ago they are reminiscent of a different world. This is why a visit to the now green and peaceful battlefields needs to be provocative for students if they are to grasp their significance. Expert tour companies and teachers can work together to bridge the chasm of time by making sure that the significance of these battles is highlighted in a factual and relevant manner.
Here are some of the key ways the continued importance of these battlefields can be brought home on such trips.
The Modern World Has Been Shaped By These Battlefields
The connection between modern life and the toil and hardship of the trenches can often be lost in history books. Teachers and expert guides on school tours can help alleviate this sense of distance by linking the battlefields in France with the modern political, social and economic structures that students have studied in class. Adults who have grappled with modern politics and global affairs understand the connection between the modern social order and WWII. It is clear that students need to be educated about this relevance also.
Many Personal Lives Are Connected to These Battlefields
A personal connection can make history books become suddenly and startlingly real for students on school tours. It is not unreasonable to expect that several students on any given excursion will have a familial or secondary connection to the people who fought and lost lives at Verdun, the Somme and elsewhere. This connection to the troops and their descendants heightens the educational significance of the trip.
The Outcome of the Battles Has Impacted Students’ Lives
If students begin to understand how life in their nation would have been nothing like they know it to be today had these battles ended differently, these school tours will gain added significance. Given the appropriate support, students can face the hard questions raised by WWII and its battlefields by handling remnants of machinery and artillery and by touring memorials and graveyards. While sombre, it impresses on them the fact that the outcome of these very real battles could have been different, and thus the modern world would not be as it is now.
Empathy Creates Significance
The school tours to the museums and memorials of Verdun and the Somme help students comprehend that many young people similar to themselves fought in these very real battles. Empathy is a basic human emotion that can be difficult to engage with but on one of these trips, students should develop an appreciation for the sacrifice and very human cost of the battles they have studied in their textbooks. It should be remembered that the ability to empathise with young people whose lives were consumed by a world at war is a delicate matter and is best handled carefully by teachers and expert guides.