Wojtek the Soldier Bear

The project will be an exploration of issues connected with the story of Wojtek, the ‘Soldier bear’. This brown bear became a member of the Polish army during the Second World War. He finished his life after the war in Edinburgh Zoo. Monuments to the bear exist in Poland, Scotland and England. Pupils will learn history and develop their creativ...

Teachers' reflections

I used this project with Year 3 and Year 4 at Eastburn School, Yorkshire, UK. 

Here are my reflections on the key successes of this project.

The project is an example of an eTwinning project which develops as it progresses - it has grown and grown!

The pupils in year 3 wrote pieces of music to describe key episodes in Wojtek's life.  This was one of the most successful outcomes of the project in my opinion, as it gave the children the opportunity to compose and perform their music to a real international audience.

We also held a video call - again giving the children the opportunity to speak to a real audience about their work together.

Year 4 pupils really enjoyed taking part in the shared history lesson about WW2 and the role of Anders Army and Wojtek's section.  They found the quiz challenging, but had taken lots of notes and enjoyed being stretched.

The Polish children wrote letters to our pupils and this inspired our Year 4 pupils to reply - this was their own initiative.  As writing is a key point for development across our school, this was a great outcome from the project.

Our pupils in Years 3 and 4 also wrote joint letters to the author of the book, Aileen Orr.  They told her about the project and what they had particularly enjoyed learning.

We also used the project to discuss the issues of migration in Europe, both after WW2 and in the present day, during our PHSCE lessons. 

Two colleagues at Eastburn supported this project and started to get more involved in eTwinning.

My colleague in Poland, Anna, has kindly made a website about the project so that we have a lasting legacy of all the work done:

https://annasp9.wixsite.com/wojtek-the-bear

It has been a great pleasure and privilege to take part in this wonderful project.

Thank you everyone!!

Mrs Linford

I used this project with Year 3,4,5 and 6 at SP 9 Dzierżoniów.
We all have enjoyed the project, including students and teachers. I got a lot of help from my friend, a History teacher at our school.
We reached the aims - we encouraged students to read historical books, we made students use their creativity and we showed them English is a way of communication.
During lessons I read my students chosen parts of Aileen Orr's book and we discussed the parts on spot, what let the students understand the historical background better. As our students are quite young the school have bought some books for children showing Wojtek the soldier bear's story ('Dziadek i Niedźwiadek" by Łukasz Wierzbicki) and there has been a queue for the books. Students are interested in reading about Wojtek!
During the work proccess  we managed to join reading, knowing history of WW2 and developing students' creativity. Students drew amazing logos, pictures from Wojtek's life and Wojtek's figures. English students composed music and when we put it together with Polish students' drawing a very interesting ebook was created, which students just love. They are proud their drawings are part of the common ebook.
The video call was a great challenge for Polish students - we ran it on 20th January, on the day when at our school a film about our school was being made (because of its 55th anniversary), the video call and the school exhibition about Wojtek are part of the film.
What students love is writing letters to their peers and receiving the answers - all of them are extremely proud of themselves when they understand the received letters. That is why they continued the correspondence for the whole school year.
Together with English teachers we have prepared materials for a lesson about Wojtek - the lesson I carried only with Year 5 and 6 (because of the English vocabulary and grammar level). We invited the head teacher to our lesson and students tried to speak English talking about history of Wojtek and WW2.

The added value of the project is contact with the author of the book "Wojtek the Bear. Polish War Hero" Aileen Orr. Students wrote  letters to her with some handmade bookmarks. What a challenge!

The project was a great experience for me as a teacher and as a Pole - I have learnt so much about my country's history from the book written by a Scottish writer. Students have learnt a lot in a very interesting way.

Thank you for running the project with us.

Mrs Anna Szczepaniak

Author: Diana Linford
Last editor: Anna Szczepaniak