Great War Primary Schools' Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organising a public festival/exhibition/event


In 2014 I piloted an outreach project working with various primary schools across Fife and Perth. This was part of a collaboration with Mary Knight, lecturer and associate dean in the School of Education, University of Dundee. Together, we worked with Torbain and Capshard Primary Schools in Kirkcaldy, Fife; Markinch Primary, Fife; Strathkinness Primary, Fife; and Ruthvenfield Primary School, Perth. I visited each school (most on at least three occasions) to help children work on local Great War research projects. Activities centred on local war memorials to help them engage with the First World War and its impact on their town/village. By researching several of the names on each memorial the children found it easier to relate to the individuals, the events of the past, and based on a sound local foundation could better understand the wider implications of the Great War. Schools engaged in various projects with a focus on crafts, poetry, genealogy, source work and local research. In all I worked with over 200 primary school pupils, and had limited contact with circa 30 pupils from St Andrews R.C High School, Kirkcaldy, Fife.

On 8 December 2014, I organised an event for representatives from each school, staged in the Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee, for pupils to give short presentations on their research. The event was open to the public but aimed at Education and Humanities students with an interest in teaching. All pupils received a certificate to mark their participation in the project. It was intended as a means of fostering closer links between Education and Humanities, and it was hoped that similar outreach activities would provide opportunities for students from both Schools, enhancing employability. Feedback from teachers and pupils was overwhelmingly positive. The following, from Miss Rona MacKenzie, Ruthvenfield Primary School, is representative of teacher feedback.

The visits were very successful. Pupils were engaged and enthusiastic, and they interacted well with Dr Patrick who gave explanations and answered questions at a level appropriate to their age and understanding. After the visits, pupils reported that they had learned a lot and that it had been fun and entertaining. They particularly enjoyed the hot-seating activity. Pupils felt the information they had learned was interesting and useful and that Dr Patrick had explained it in a way that was easy to understand and brought history to life.


The University of Dundee will welcome school pupils from across Fife and Perthshire to present their work on the Great War at a special event on Monday December 8th, in doing so demonstrating how academics and students can learn from our youngsters.

Colleagues from the University’s School of Education, Social Work and Community Education and the School of Humanities have been working with Torbain, Capshard, Markinch, Strathkinness and Ruthvenfield Primary Schools and St Andrews High School on World War 1 projects local to their villages and towns.

Dr Derek Patrick, lecturer in History and one of the founders of the Great War Dundee project, said, “Schools have taken a fairly varied approach. Ruthvenfield have been very active with research on the local area and the kids have taken a keen interest in genealogy, bringing in items such as medals and photos from home. Strathkinness were able to obtain a box of items from the local museum and I spent some time discussing primary sources. There's been a good amount of Great War themed art and writing projects with most using novels like 'War Horse'.

“Our focus has been on memorialisation and the war in a more local context, which acts as a gateway to more general themes. In general, the kids have been really engaged and have thoroughly enjoyed the topic. We look forward to welcoming them to the University to present their findings.”

Mary Knight, Associate Dean in the School of Education, Social Work and Community Education, said, “This a great opportunity for the pupils to share their excellent work, visit the University and gain some insight into university life, and it also gives them an opportunity to contribute to our understanding of teaching and learning.

“We have hosted a number of similar events in the past and students and staff have commented on the knowledge and confidence of the pupils, and found the events to be of great value for their own development and understanding of learning. The pupils have demonstrated that learning is not a one way process - as academics and students we can learn a great deal from our young people.

“The collaboration between the two Schools from the College of Arts and Social Sciences has enabled academics to draw on each other’s expertise, to develop a shared understanding, work effectively across disciplines and to identify and recognise how we can work together to create opportunities for working with local communities. It has also encouraged pupils, who may be our future students, to engage with the university staff and topics.”

The pupils will present their work to students and staff in the University on Monday December 8th in the Dalhousie Building, from 10.15am until approximately 12 noon before taking part in a number of History related interactive workshops.
Period8 Dec 2014
Event typeConference
LocationDundeeShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional