Uncovering the benefits of a school trip to the historical region of Normandy
Published: August 12th 2015
35 minutes – The time it takes for school groups to travel from Folkestone to Calais and access the gateway to Continental Europe. We can assume it took a little longer for William the Conqueror and his soldiers to cross the twenty-plus miles of the Channel, but Normandy remains an ever popular region for schools looking to take learning outside the classroom to support their students’ progress through the curriculum.
Normandy continues to grow as a key destination for school trips abroad and it’s not just because of its convenient location. The region is packed with educational opportunities to support teachers in their annual quest to tick off the units in their long term curriculum plans. Covering primary level to GCSE stage, Normandy provides the perfect setting for school groups to uncover and understand history in context covering key aspects stretching from Medieval to Modern history.
Knowledge and understanding through historical enquiry
The Norman Conquest continues to be a part of the curriculum’s breadth of study across the Key Stages. A Normandy history school trip allows for students to further understand the impact of the Norman invasion on British society using key artefacts to help their comprehension of the topic. The Bayeux Tapestry is an excellent example of a source to support this historical enquiry. Set just 18km from Travelbound’s Château du Molay, the Bayeux Tapestry depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England and the consequential Battle of Hastings. The 230ft long embroidered cloth allows students to trace the history of the period. The history of the artefact itself is a sight to behold with incredible detail and colour that has lasted over 9 centuries. It provides students with a unique first-hand experience giving them a chance to see a piece of history right in front of them; evaluate what can be gained from the source and place their learning in context. A visit here also ties in neatly with a trip to the birthplace of William the Conqueror at Falaise Castle to better understand his significance and development of the monarchy.
I thought it was really fun. The Chateau was great and I love the history in Normandy.
Lincoln Christ Hospital School
Understanding D-Day with a Normandy beach tour
Similarly, a battlefields tour to Normandy enables schools the chance to further their study of the D-Day landings. The memorial at Omaha Beach provides schools with an insight to the Normandy invasion with maps and narratives explaining the assault upon the German front line. Seeing the beach before your eyes helps school groups understand how Operation Overlord was executed. It helps students in the investigation to ascertain the importance of taking control of this section to link up with the landings at both Gold and Utah along the coast.
The Château du Molay plays a big part in the success of tours to Normandy. Its inspiring location enables schools to easily access the region’s key landmarks, while its on-site facilities also allow for school groups to engage in further study and additional team building opportunities. Last year saw the Steeple Claydon School engage with D-Day veterans to mark the 70th anniversary of Normandy Landings. Students were given eyewitness accounts of life during the period, the conditions soldiers were faced with and also had the chance to handle artefacts from the period.
A fantastic trip enjoyed by children and adults! The WW2 veterans talk was great. The children have learnt so much history is a short space of time.
Steeple Claydon School
Studying this significant period, which extends beyond Europe, supports young learners in their understanding of the impact of the World War Two on the wider world. Arromanches remains an outstanding example of the technical feat achieved during World War Two with 600,000 tonnes of concrete and equipment transported across the Channel. The remains of the Mulberry harbour act as a reminder of the scars of war at the heart of the landings. The D-Day tour continues into the Museum where artefacts, models and media bring together a bigger picture of the events along the northern coastline. The 360 degree cinema at Arromanches is a must-see detailing the Battle of Normandy and the impact not only the infantry men who stormed the beaches for the liberation of Europe but the civilians who also sacrificed so much to pave the way for hope.
Maximising learning outside the classroom
For schools groups studying this period in Modern history, Normandy becomes an outdoor museum providing endless opportunities to delve deeper into the cause and effects of World War Two. Battlefield tours provide students with something ‘real’; they are able to see the true nature of war and begin to comprehend its severe impact. From archive footage of soldiers leaping ‘into the jaws of death’ to the poignant reminder of the many lives lost and remembered at the American cemetery (Omaha Beach), the British cemetery (Bayeux) and German cemetery (La Cambe), a Normandy history school trip helps students gain a new perspective of World War Two while developing their ability to use enquiry and interpret information.
There remains more to taking your students to Normandy than just the obvious educational benefits. Experiences are key to students’ development and it is these moments - as they look up at the Maisy Battery; marvel at the defences at Point du Hoc; analyse the strategic positioning of Pegasus Bridge and trace the story of the D-Day Landings at the Memorial de Caen Museum - they will share with their peers. The new environment means adapting, claiming a degree of independence while also developing their ability to communicate with those around them. Together, the chance for student enrichment while gaining first-hand experience through learning outside the classroom means teachers are able to cover more curriculum goals while providing a trip that will last long in the memory. With the Normandy region full of sweeping vistas to fuel the imagination, the region helps piece together significant points in history and inspires further study.
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