Cove School’s Trip to Krakow

Holocaust school trip

THIS IS SOMETHING YOU CAN’T TEACH IN THE CLASSROOM

Cove School is a mixed secondary state school in Hampshire. In January, Emma Wickens took 40 students on a guided study trip to Krakow with Anglia Tours. We spoke to Emma about how this trip was planned, what she thinks her students got out of it and why she’ll definitely be returning.

Why did you choose to take your students to Krakow?

We chose to cover The Holocaust as a module on the curriculum and knew that a visit to Krakow would support the studies for both History and RS. We took Year 10’s on the trip. This was their chance to see something new, a unique opportunity that would make a difference in their lives.

Why did you choose Anglia Tours?

Our department head has travelled with Anglia Tours to the WW1 Battlefields and is also taking a guided study tour to Munich with them, so I contacted Julia to arrange a visit to Krakow.

How did you promote the tour?

We planned ahead and last year checked out with the Year 9 students if they would be interested in a trip to Krakow in Year 10. The feedback was good, so we launched the trip to them as Year 9’s as part of their options. We opened the trip up to the whole year, showed them where they would be going and what they would be doing and we ended up over subscribed, mostly with History and RS students.

Did Anglia Tours support you with the tour planning?

Yes they did. Philip Pearce from Anglia came to our parents evening, delivered a power point about the trip and really helped to reassure the parents.

How did your Anglia guide support you on the trip?

It was nice to have someone who knew the area well and could get us from A to B. He was very knowledgeable about history from that period. This made things easier for me.

Could you tell us more about the benefits of a visit to Auschwitz for students?

What happened is something you can’t teach in a classroom. You could not get this subject across in a normal setting. The students were able to really imagine what was going on in Auschwitz. The guides at Auschwitz were so good and the students were really absorbing everything that they said.

At the end of the visit, we went to a spot where the graves are by the gas chambers and lit some candles. I gave a speech describing what an honour it was for us to be there and how important it is to pay attention to what’s happening in the world right now. We should honour these peoples’ deaths by developing awareness and not letting anything like this happen again. Afterwards the students were really reflective; some were shocked, some were tearful.

Have you applied any of your experiences and knowledge gained on the trip back in the classroom?

The order that we did this trip means, that we had already completed this scheme of work and they are now working on revision. It will definitely help them when answering questions on The Holocaust in their exams.  This trip has also developed them emotionally as people. The have reflected on what they’ve learnt and how it would affect them in real life.

How did the students respond to a meeting with a Member of the Righteous Among the Nations?

We met with a lady who, as a child was rescued and hidden by a Catholic family. Students really connected well with her story. They were so emotional and wanted to shake her hand. They asked her questions about the impact of this experience on her life. The family who protected her raised her as a Catholic and she remained a Catholic afterwards. The students asked her questions around why she chose to do this. They asked her some really grown up questions.  They have all been asking me more questions since they met her.

What do you think are the overall benefits of taking your students on this trip?

We have definitely seen a benefit to their personal development. To be there means they have been able to contextualise their learning a whole new way and they now understand the topic on a whole new level. It’s not the same to just see this subject in pictures. This is the kind of development that all students need. A visit to Krakow to learn more about The Holocaust is definitely something you could cover for all students, even if they are not studying History or RS. It would make a good Enrichment trip.

What were the highlights of the trip for you?

Seeing the students connect with what they were seeing. It took a bit of time for some but they really got there. It enabled us to take away the history and put the personal side to it. I can’t teach that and nothing compares to that. I have a great sense of pride in my students that I’ve never felt before. I felt like a proud mum!

Have the students said what their highlights were?

I have received emails from parents saying that they were pleased their child went on the trip and how much their child enjoyed it.

Here is what one student wrote in our school newsletter:

“Going to Poland was such a good experience and something to never forget. We learnt a lot about how difficult and disturbing it was for the Jews and the people of Krakow. We knew what to expect but when we got there, there was so much to take in. We would 100% recommend going as it’s such an amazing place to be and so much to learn.”

What are your top tips to other teachers thinking of taking a guided history trip to Krakow?

  • I’m so glad I reminded them to take good footwear and warm layers!
  • Next time I will give them a project to work on when they get back. This way round we had already studied it.
  • If you can organise your timings so that you have a day to recover before going back to school, then do it. This trip is tiring!
  • Listen to your students. I knew when they’d had enough. There’s a lot of powerful stuff to process and they need reflection time. As adults we have to remember it’s a lot for them.

Would you run this trip again?

Definitely. Our Head Teacher came on the trip and was really positive about it. It’s already in the calendar for next year.