Cover image: Using animals to tell stories of conflict and peace

Using animals to tell stories of conflict and peace

Isy Mead, Head of Learning at The Story Museum in Oxford, introduces a new set of film-based primary resources to support study of the First World War through new global perspectives – and animals! Stories help us understand our world and connect with others. Sharing stories leads to empathy, empathy to peace. It is fitting then, that in 2016, The Story Museum teamed up with 14-18 NOW, the five-year programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War. Our remit: to produce six new stories about the war. In a ground-breaking way. In a way which raises awareness of the global nature of war, beyond simply ‘trenches and poppies.’ In a way which makes a difficult subject accessible and familiar. And so we searched for – and found - animals - from around the world - with true stories to tell! These animals have a lot to say - and a lot to teach us. Animals, being innocent participants in the war, allow us to explore universal emotions and human reactions. They also naturally draw sympathy from children. This provides a perfect basis to learn and understand diverse perspectives from around the world at this crucial moment in our history. And this will segue into the way they consider others within all the global issues happening today. Here they are:
  • Lizzie, the Elephant. Lizzie travelled all the way from India to Sheffield, to replace the work of the horses at a steel factory, because the horses had all been sent to the Front.
  • Corporal, a Koala: the mascot of the Australian regiment, who ends up in Gallipoli with shell shock.
  • El-Shimla, a War Camel, part of the Imperial Camel Corps of Egypt in 1916, who fought in the Arab Revolt with Laurence of Arabia.
  • A ‘very gallant gentleman,’ a carrier pigeon, who flew through torrential weather, just in time to save lives at sea.
  • Ali Pasha, the tortoise veteran of Gallipoli who was smuggled on-board HMS Implacable, bound for urgent duties in the Mediterranean.
  • Anansi the Spider, who tells harrowing tales of [then-named] British West Indian Regiment, and how the racism the soldiers confronted from their fellow soldiers was far worse than the war they were fighting together.
'Incredible Journey' animal groupThe films are accompanied by background context and extensive lesson plan ideas with a wealth of cross-curricular links, including Literacy, History, global diversity topics, Art, Drama and more besides. The lesson plan activities combine thought-provoking questions for discussion as well as engaging activities. Your class could put a camel on trial for murder, write a letter to an elephant, trace the journey of a tortoise across the world, design a cryptic message for a carrier pigeon, make a medal and award ceremony for a spider, or write an obituary for a camel! So if you are looking for activities with a global dimension to enhance your teaching of this crucial moment our history, these resources would be just what you are looking for. Watch the films and download the lesson plans here: 14-18 NOW is a five-year programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War. Working with partners across the UK, the programme commissions new artworks from artists across all artforms, inspired by the period 1914-18. The Story Museum is a registered charity (no. 1107809) which harnesses the power of story to inspire learning and to improve wellbeing. Our story-based learning projects in schools and communities have been running since 2005, showing positive impacts on attainment and attitudes. In April 2014 The Story Museum opened as a venue in central Oxford, providing a year-round programme of exhibitions and events to schools and to the general public.