Updated on 22 June 2022
Reading time: 5 minutes
Teaching children weighty topics like the D-Day Landings in Normandy can be challenging. Corine Vervaeke does it brilliantly by fueling their imagination and making her account of D-Day an immersive experience. Her narrative unfolds the historical facts of the 6th of June 1944 focusing on the daily lives of the young soldiers who landed on this unknown beach on this particular day. Her concept is powerful to make history come to life: children become “actors” so that the Normandy landings aren’t something they just read about in books. History is visible and actively explored on Juno Beach!
Studying history at school is great but nothing beats real life observation ! The twins Alexandre and Guillaume have impatiently been waiting for this day to discover the D-Day Landing beaches with their friends. Laurence, their mother, is always seeking to make the most of education through travel and this interactive experience seems ideal to engage the kids and help them imagine the past. Traveling back in time to experience life during the Second World War may change their perception of a history class forever!
JUNO BEACH AND THE CROSS OF LORRAINE
The little battalion meets at the foot of the Cross of Lorraine, in Courseulles-sur-Mer. Under an umbrella, the silhouette of a woman dressed up in a vintage 1940s look appears in the distance. She is carrying heavy military bags, which arouse our curiosity. As she gets closer, we notice her hair brushed back from the face in soft waves in the style worn by women throughout the Occupation. No doubt this character is Corinne, our guide! The adventure begins.
As an introduction, children are invited to take a look at the Cross of Lorraine, a meaningful symbol representing the Free French Forces during WWII. This iconic sign of the Allies was initiated by General de Gaulle exiled in England, the founder of the resistance movement in 1940. Corinne explains how this key character in the liberation of France would proudly step a foot on Juno beach a few days after it was liberated by the Canadian troops.
AN Orienteering Compass Exercise
In the early morning of June 6th, the fleet of ships berthed along the shores of Normandy and deployed over five beaches spreading along a 30-mile stretch of coastline chosen for the landings. Corinne explains in detail the cross-channel military operation prepared by the Allied Forces, code-named Overlord. Just like the Canadian soldiers heading to Caen from Juno beach, kids are taught how to use a map and compass to find their way through unknown territories. An essential skill and a rewarding, fun exercise to master a crucial wartime tool!
HELMETS AND CHEWING GUM
History is more exciting when children can relate to their own lives. Kids learn about the many teenagers enlisted in the war, only a few years older than themselves. Steel helmets were an integral part of their uniforms, and Corinne has a range of German, American, and British helmets to wear to stimulate their imagination. As the kids try the military headgear, Corinne points out the differences. The German helmet for example clearly provides a better protection against the enemy.
Like Mary Poppins, Corinne miraculously unpacks her bag and astounds the kids with the number of military items it contains! She presents a trumpet to communicate and an intriguing breakfast ration box coated with wax to prevent moisture. The youngsters are impatient to find out what’s inside! They uncover a box of matches, some chocolate, chewing gum, dry cakes, fruit gums, sugar, chocolate dessert cream, toilet paper and Lucky Strike cigarettes *. There also find a sewing kit, an itchy sweater, some underwear, a razor, a shaving brush and solid soap. The box is painted in khaki to avoid being spotted by the enemy with light reflections.
* smoking harms you severely.
Located in the small fishing town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, Juno Beach is one of the five D-Day Landing Beaches. It was assaulted on June 6, 1944 by the Canadian troops.
The true meaning of fear and danger
Trying on the heavy equipment and moving around dressed up like a soldier is a challenging mission for the children. The weight comes on top of an already heavy burden consisting of a weapon, ammunition, water and other gear. They soon realise how heavy loads reduce mobility and performance, increase fatigue while at the same time improving survivability and reducing casualties on the battlefield. Testing their own capacity is a great way to make history tangible and show them the reality faced by the Allied soldiers.
THE JUNO BEACH CENTER
After such a immersive experience of the landings, kids can’t wait to explore the Juno Beach Centre! With permanent and temporary exhibits that depict the contributions made by Canadian soldiers during the war, visiting the interactive Juno Beach Centre is a wonderful way to make the experience more engaging for the whole family. Designed for younger generations, this museum stimulates enquiry skills and encourages critical thinking from kids of all ages. A fantastic way to experience history of WWII rather than just read about it.
The Story of D-Day for children and their parents
Voie des français libres
Interactive experiences of D-Day
During French school holidays.
Next dates: Monday 11July, Monday 18 and Monday 25 July, Monday 1 August, Monday 8 August, Thursday 11 August, Thursday 18 August and Monday 22 August.
From 3 to 4:30 p.m., at the foot of the Cross of Lorraine. Reservation required by phone at the Courseulles-sur-Mer Tourist Office +33 2 31 37 46 80.
And all year round on request, according to Corinne’s availability. Role plays and interactive experience also organised at home upon request.
Under 6 years old: free
6 to 10 years old: 3 €
10 to 18 years old: 5 €
Adults: 10 €
Family rates available
All of the above information is subject to change