Cover image: Love (and marriage)

Love (and marriage)

Whether Valentine’s Day is your favourite or most loathed festival of the year there is no denying it has a big impact. Check out how big by taking a look at these Valentine's Day Statistics. Of course, not everyone celebrates love in the same way, or even on the same day, as this Guardian Datablog article explains. In this feature we suggest some teaching ideas relating to love, marriage and the wider world. Given the content, please note, not all of these ideas are appropriate for very young children, but we have highlighted some primary resources that could be useful.

Topics covered

Curriculum links

  • PSHE: love and personal relationships
  • Citizenship: rights, equality
  • Geography: sense of place, population
  • RE: relationships and marriage, religious rituals
  • History: social history
  • Sociology: relationships and marriage
  • Also as a theme in MFL, English, Art and Music
This could be a nice clip to introduce your lesson - a very early 'music video' of a song you might recognise...! Can your students suggest any other songs or films with themes relating to Valentine's Day? [embed][/embed]

Finding love

Around the world people go to all kinds of lengths to find love. Each year, the County Clare town of Lisdoonvarna in Ireland hosts a matchmaking festival that’s become so popular it’s a now a big draw for tourists. If you’d rather vet your potential partner first, you could try a classified advert: in Indian papers people seek brides and grooms, believing love will grow after marriage; and the London Review of Books has famously witty adverts from people searching for love. Internet dating is now responsible for a third of all new relationships in the UK according to The Observer. This info-graphic offers a few "tips to game the system and meet your match" - what do your students think of these suggestions? Can they come up with more? How ethical is it to be 'economical with the truth'?


Once you’ve found that special person you might want to celebrate your love on Valentine’s Day, but before you rush to buy them flowers you could explore the impact of this gift. Students could use the following sources to discover the environmental and economic impact of a bunch of roses: Although dinner and a movie could leave you uninspired, be grateful you weren’t courting in 19th century Austria when women would dance with apple slices in their armpits, and then present these to a man of their choosing - if feelings were reciprocated the man would eat the slice! Read more about this and other strange courtship rituals in this blog. And in Britain in the middle-ages young couples were bundled together to give them a chance to become intimate (without allowing anything else) before marriage. The girl was tied up in a blanket before spending the night in the same bed as her future husband. Further entertaining details in the 'bedroom' episode of the BBC’s documentary on the history of the home. (The link is to a summary - the programme's no longer available for viewing, but you could check if your school history department has recorded it.) [caption id="" align="alignright" width="188"]Love Padlocks, Hohenzollernbrücke, Cologne, Germany by Dandelion and Burdock - click to view on Love Padlocks, Hohenzollernbrücke, Cologne, Germany by Dandelion and Burdock - click to view on[/caption] If you are looking for a slightly alternative activity for Valentine’s you could lock a padlock onto a bridge and throw the key into the water to symbolise your love. There are many ‘lovers bridges’ around the world, read more on this blog and in this article about the bridge in Rome and have a look at this beautiful photo of the bridge in Paris. And of course, the traditional way of expressing love on Valentine's Day is to send your sweetheart an 'anonymous' card - check out this fine selection of vintage Valentine's Day postcards.


If you have made it past the hurdle of finding your loved one and survived the courting process the next step may be marriage. In Mexico they hold mass weddings for prison inmates in order to help ease their transition back into society. Check out this short film clip of one of the ceremonies. If you’re getting married in India or Japan, social pressures may cause you to hire some of your guests. Find out more in these articles But marriage is not always possible for everyone - there are many parts of the world where same-sex couples cannot officially marry. This wonderful photo was taken in Washington State on 9 December 2012 when same-sex couples were allowed to apply for a marriage license for the first time. This and other similar images could be used to challenge stereotypes with students. There is an interesting blog on gay marriage the Guardian website which could feed into a debate. More resources on gay rights and marriage can be found in this comprehensive list put together by the New York Times for American teachers and Stonewall, the gay rights charity, have created these thoughtful lessons for primary pupils. And unfortunately marriage is not always about love. This Guardian article discusses child marriage in India - and this film investigates the practice in Ghana. Plan UK have produced some excellent school resources on early and forced marriage, including the powerful film ‘Sazia’s Story’. To finish on a more positive note, here are some lovely ‘wedding’ photos of a Nigerian Barbie and Ken - to provide a little bit of learning about other cultures and hint of challenging preconceptions. And from the Boston Globe Big Picture, here are 45 wedding photos from lots of different countries and cultures.

Love is all around...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="167"]Love of nature by Glisglis - click to view on Love of nature by Glisglis - click to view on[/caption] There are lots of naturally occurring ‘hearts’ in the world. Here are some photos celebrating the shape that has come to epitomise love: Can your students find any 'hearts' in unexpected places? You could challenge them to find one at home, in the classroom, in the school grounds or on the journey to school. Another great 'Learning Outside the Classroom' option for Valentine's Day is to find materials to put into a 'love potion'. The Eden Project have put together a lesson for primary students where they create a ‘magic potion’ and build on their literacy skills.

More useful Global Dimension resources about love & relationships

So Much - about love and family (ages 3-5, 5-7) The British Sari Story Education Pack - includes details of wedding saris (ages 5-7, 7-11) Makutano Junction - resource developed around a Kenyan TV soap opera (ages 7-11, 11-14, 14-16) Sazia’s Story - early/forced marriage (ages 11-14, 14-16, 16+) Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Rights - human rights activity pack from Amnesty Inernationl (ages 14-16, 16+) The photo at the top of the page is Maya's Bride & Groom Set by t0fugurl on and used under a Creative Commons licence.