Taking your history class to significant World War II sites will prove to be an immensely valuable, eye-opening and potentially life-changing experience for young learners. It can be difficult to grasp just how much was sacrificed for our freedom during the war when working out of a textbook, but walking the same ground as soldiers and visiting key sites will help them to understand and also assist greatly with their studies.
There are a handful of important sites that will expose young students to the realities of war in a safe and nurturing environment. Confronting the horrors of war can be unsettling, but when handled delicately and with sensitively considered itineraries, these school trips can allow pupils to reassess their world view and find appreciation for those that lost their lives for their freedom.
Primary School Destinations
The Opal Coast in Northern France is an ideal destination for primary school students. Here you will find many important battle sites and areas from both World War I and World War II, including the actual trenches where soldiers lived at the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert. Learning how soldiers lived during the wars is always an eye-opening and fascinating experience for youngsters and helps to bring the past to life.
You do not have to travel too far to see significant sites from WWII, with London offering a few intriguing and important windows onto the conflict. This includes an overnight excursion to HMS Belfast, which provides a fully immersive experience where students see what life was like onboard a warship during WWII. They can explore below the waterline including the Boiler Room, Engine Room, and Shell Room, as well as the gun turrets, Arctic Mess Deck, and other areas. Activities are also available, including fun and valuable experience like flag raising, touring the Captain’s Bridge and even sleeping in real soldiers’ bunkers on the overnight stay.
Secondary School Destinations:
Krakow is a good base for a WWII history trip as there is a selection of important sites close by. Most notably this includes Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp. This can be an upsetting and confronting experience, so be sure to prepare your group beforehand. That being said, it is also a powerful way to introduce your class to the devastating war crimes and genocide that occurred during WWII. Krakow also features the Jewish Museum and Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, which helps students to learn more about the war and immerse themselves in its history.
The D-Day beaches at Normandy are probably the most famous WWII site. Reading about the heroic actions can be fascinating, but it does not provide the same experience as walking the beaches yourself and placing the events in context. Students can also benefit from visiting the memorials and cemeteries here for a moving reminder that so many gave their lives in return for freedom. Normandy is, essentially, an outdoor museum and a destination with a wide range of intriguing, tragic, and inspirational learning opportunities that any student will benefit from greatly.
It can be difficult to express just how significant and bloody World War II was in the classroom, but school trips to key sites can educate young minds and provide a potentially life-changing and important educational experience.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in school trip itineraries for school and youth groups to the UK, Europe and beyond. As a father and avid traveller, John is very passionate about providing students with valuable and engaging learning experiences outside of the classroom. By sharing his expert advice with teachers, he allows them to inspire their students and bring their studies to life.