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Back to school

Yesterday, on National Emergency Services Day, we officially launched our new learning and discovery programme for schools. In our last education blog we talked about what areas we have changed and what is brand new. In this blog we will be going into a bit more detail about the brand new activities we have on offer, meeting a few of our new costumed characters and finding out what actually happens on our Topic Takeovers.

We asked some of our new costumed characters to introduce themselves…

Jane the Maid

My name is Jane and I was Samuel Pepys’ maid during the Great Fire of London. I was the one who woke him up at 3 o’clock in the morning to tell him there was a fire, but he went back to bed, as he did not think it was important! I felt powerless really; I was only 20 at the time, what else could I have done? I was then awake worrying, until I woke him at 7 in the morning, as usual. That was when he finally started to see how serious it was, as I told him that there had been 300 houses burnt down during those few hours and that the fire was moving towards Fish Street near London Bridge. He then went off to the Tower of London to see how he could help. You could say I was the reason he finally got up and did something, as well as helping with his account of the Great Fire.

Sergeant Evans

Sergeant Evans here, Police Constable No. 50, based at West Bar Police/Fire Station. It’s 1900 and we’ve all just moved into this new purpose built station. We’re here to keep the city safe from both criminals’ activity and fiery blazes. My day usually starts at the station at 6am with a cup of tea. A parade of constables is held at 6.30 where we read the orders of the day before sending the constables out on patrol at 6.45am. My job is then to check on the prisoners we’ve had brought in the night before to arrange for them to see a magistrate or an appearance in court. I organise photographic processing of criminals for the ‘mug shot books’ and will man the desk for general enquiries. Sometime I will accompany younger constables out on patrol to teach them some tricks of the trade. There’s a popular song that finishes ‘a policeman’s lot if not a happy one' but I’ve enjoyed being in the police force for the last 34 years. There’s a lot of satisfaction helping people; so if want to visit and find about life for both police officers and criminals in our police station come along do come along BUT remember, I’ve got my eye on you.

Evie the ARP Warden

The Sheffield Blitz may sometimes be forgotten in amongst the bombings on London but it was a terrifying time for me, as an ARP Warden. I’m Evie, well Evelyn if you want to be formal, which I’m not really; I think my Mum gave me that name to make me sound posh, which I’m not. Anyway I spent a long time during the first few years of the war preparing for air raids, but then when it finally happened and hit the city centre, well nothing can prepare you for that, no practice drills, the fear was indescribable. Probably not like anything you could imagine and then having to go out and help people afterwards was scary, but I just seemed to carry on, it was all a blur, I just did what I needed to do, I didn’t even think about it.

Jessica the Firefighter

I’m Jessica and I'm a firefighter with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, stationed at Central Fire Station in Sheffield. People think being a firefighter is all about fighting fires and don’t get me wrong, obviously it is a huge part of it, but we do so much more. Every day is different; we can go from an emergency call out to helping with flooding to doing a fire safety talk at a school. We also have to make sure that equipment is inspected regularly (and we have a lot of that) so that it is all safe to use, including the fire engines we go out to emergencies on. Our job is extremely demanding which is why we work in such strange shift patterns and when we are on call, we are 100% on call.

Samuel Pepys (GFOL)

Diary writer, secretary to the Navy board, friend of the rich and powerful – including King Charles II - that's me, Samuel Pepys. I witnessed the conflagration that almost saw London burn to the ground in 1666. London: a city so cursed that plague had ravaged the land in 1665 taking many of its citizens to the grave. The fire did much damage but cured us of the plague. With so many people taking to boats in the middle of the Thames, I had to consult with the king to help stop the progress of the flames and we decided to … Ahem, actually that, my friends is another story and you should come and hear it from me in person. Good morrow until we meet again.

An interactive and engaging Topic Takeover

Now on to our Topic Takeovers, a fully interactive and engaging experience that can see a school hall turned into London from 1666 or the Blitz or even a real life emergency. And we can take them anywhere in the country! As we said in our previous blog, we have worked collaboratively on these days with the Past Presents Ltd. Here is a bit more details on what each of our Topic Takeovers entails:

People Who Help Us

We begin the day with an introduction to our Topic Takeover, meeting the everyday helpers who can sometimes be forgotten, from bus drivers to lifeguards. There are lots of people who help us, the unsung heroes of everyday life. We meet them all the time, but do we realise it? Then we move on to the first part of our day, Today’s Heroes, which is a highly active, round robin session that helps us to find out about our rescue heroes with lots of dressing up and objects; who are they? By working together we’ll be able to work it out!

Moving on to History’s Heroes, we find out about the people who helped us in the past. It’s another round robin but harder this time as the older equipment might not be what you’d expect our rescue heroes to have. Can you work out who’s who this time?

In our second part of the day we play a game called, well…Who ya gonna call? There are some dangerous scenarios we find ourselves in but who will save us? Using props and teamwork you can work it out and win the game! Then it is time for our emergency situation. Join us at the scene of an accident and role play our rescue helpers! From the fire service to the police and more, we have five scenarios and the equipment to use to find out the jobs in an emergency situation. We end our day with true or false: crime and punishment can be scary but sometimes funny! Ready for some acting? It’s the only way to sort out the fact from the fiction and we become the Police and investigate some crazy crimes and loony laws!

Great Fire of London

In order for this takeover to begin we have to head back to 1666 and what better way than to meet the protagonists; from King Charles II to Thomas the baker, who were the key figures during the Great Fire of London? We’ll find out together and dress up as them too. In the first part of our day we are in London before the fire; what was it like? From building houses to baking bread to surviving the plague… Get hands-on in our round-robin to discover life in London!

In the next part we are in London as the fire takes hold. What did the citizens do to try and save the city? From blowing up houses to chains of buckets to fleeing London, we engage in the chaos of the Great Fire! In our afternoon session we move forward in time to after the fire and rebuilding London. We use our making and planning skills to take on the rebuilding of a city and discover how they tried to prevent such a thing from happening again. We’ll find out about the new firefighters and even make a fire plaque to take home. Next we recreate the London Monument in your school hall, yes really! If the Londoners could build it to remember the Great Fire, so can you. Finally we end the day with the London game and it’s time for our acting skills as we put everything we’ve learnt into practice and look at what London looked like at the time and tell the story of the fire using role play and actions.

World War II and the Blitz

We start the day with finding out who would you meet in a wartime street. We look at some of the key figures going about their business in wartime, dress up as them and find out what they did. For the first part of our takeover we take on the role of Air Raid Wardens and complete a round robin of activities that highlight the effects of air raids on everyday life in Britain.

In the afternoon we become very active and look at evacuees and what they were evacuated from. Looking at what an evacuee would take with them is only one part of this interactive session as we decide what key targets were and then go on a bombing mission! We end our day with Britain under the Bombs. This finale session sees the young people put into a real time night bombing scenario as they work together to find safety, fight fires and deal with the consequences of the Blitz.

These are just a taster of some of the new and improved activities we've launched this week; we haven't even mentioned all the other fantastic things on offer for learners of all ages at NESM. We are so excited to be welcoming schools back, as well as coming out to see them with our new outreach programme too. Find out more about our whole learning and discovery offer at

Rosie Norrell and Paul Watson

Learning and Discovery Co-ordinators

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