Evacuee Learning Activity, Absent Without Leave Remote Learning Activity

Remote Activity, £60 per class, KS2

Learn about the start of the Second World War with our Remote Evacuee Learning Activity.

The Home Guard has been called to the pit cottage at Beamish Museum because Mrs Armstrong (who lives there) has reported that the evacuee she was looking after has gone missing can your class work out where the child might have gone and why?

Students need to explore the evacuee’s belongings and the notes that he has left Mrs Armstrong by telling the Home Guard what to look at and then figure out where he might have gone and why.

This remote evacuee learning activity brings the museum straight into the classroom via Zoom. Images of the artefacts and the paper resources can be sent to the teacher before the session. The Home Guard volunteer will be led by the children through the downstairs of the pit cottage to uncover the story. In doing so, they will get a sense of the history of the period. They will need to discover all the information about the evacuee and why he has gone missing.

  • Target Age: Key Stage 2
  • Cost: £60
  • Duration: Up to one hour
  • Group Size: Full class (has been delivered to more than one class at the same time)
  • Season: All year round

Objectives of the activity:

  • To learn about aspects of the start of the Second World War including what Operation Petticoat was, the Phoney War and why the evacuees were sent away from the major cities in the region, particularly those that lived close to the shipbuilding areas. They will also discover what evacuees had to pack in their suitcases, labelling and identity cards, propaganda, gasmasks, bomb shelters and why carrots were important.
  • To encourage the development of problem-solving skills.
  • To learn which pieces of information are useful and which are not in piecing together the story and understanding what happened.
  • To learn how make accurate and relevant notes.
  • To be able to put themselves in the shoes of the evacuee and discover what it must have been like.
  • To develop and use thinking skills such as questioning, planning, making decisions and judgements and the synthesis of information.

Please note that the teacher in the classroom will have an active role to play to support the children as the scenario is revealed by the Home Guard volunteer.

Outline of the remote evacuee learning activity:

The Home Guard volunteer (in period costume) will start the session at the front door of Mrs Armstrong’s house. They will explain that they have been called because Mrs Armstrong has sent a note saying that her evacuee has gone missing. The Home Guard volunteer will briefly show the children the two rooms of the pit cottage and will listen carefully to what the children suggest they should explore.

Then the Home Guard volunteer will travel around the two rooms (the bedroom and the kitchen) revealing all the information that will be needed to discover what has happened. The children will direct the Home Guard volunteer as to what to do. The resources will be collected, investigated and decisions made as to what could have happened to the evacuee. Children could take notes about the resources and then decide what information they use in order to guess where the evacuee has gone.

Please note, the children may make the wrong assumptions about the resources as they attempt to decipher what has happened but, as more pieces of evidence are added, they should quickly recognise their initial errors.

Ideas for pre and post session:

  • Pre: Prior to the experience, students should be told a little about what they will be doing. It might be useful to have the children in the room when the connection is tested prior to the actual session.
  • Post: Possible follow-up activities could be:
    • Write the story of the evacuee in pictures or words, using all the resources available.
    • Create a drama around the events leading up to the disappearance.
    • Read extracts from books that describe evacuees’ experiences.
    • Create a newspaper report about the events.

Guidelines for teachers:

Preparing for the Zoom activity: It is strongly recommended that supervising staff should test the connection between the museum and classroom before the session. Contact Simon Woolley, Head of Learning via email simonwoolley@beamish.org.uk to make arrangements for this. The Home Guard volunteer only needs to be able to hear the children in order to make the activity work. Some classes have used the chat facility to instruct the Home Guard volunteer as to where to go and what to do, which can be typed in by the teacher as the activity progresses.


  • Use of an effective microphone has been beneficial but not essential to the success of the Zoom activity, otherwise children can come up to the laptop to ask a question or make a suggestion as to what to do, or the chat facility can be used. The supervising adult can communicate on the children’s behalf.
  • The images of the artefacts and paper resources can be printed out for the children beforehand and passed around as they are revealed. All resources will be available. It is possible that some of the resources will not explored in depth during the session but these can be revisited post session. It is beneficial but not essential that the resources are offered to the children as the Home Guard volunteer reveals them, and not before.
  • The Home Guard volunteer knows the story and may give indications as to what the children could explore. It is useful (but not essential) that the teacher recognises these verbal and visual clues to support the children in their learning.
  • There may be localised school rules that the Home Guard volunteer may not be aware of regarding online activities for the children, it is important that these are discussed beforehand so everybody is clear about how the session will be delivered.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us. Telephone Simon Woolley, Head of Learning, on 0191 370 4011 or email simonwoolley@beamish.org.uk.

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