School pupils are sowing poppy seeds in their schools across Sheffield to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

Youngsters at Dore Primary School were today the first in Sheffield to sow the free seeds, which are being distributed by Sheffield City Council, following a donation of seeds from Unwins Seeds.

The pupils were joined by Cllr Jackie Drayton from Sheffield City Council, Colonel Geoffrey Norton of the Yorks and Lancaster Battalion and students from Notre Dame who have been to visit the battlefields in France and Belgium as part of their work to commemorate the centenary.

The scheme will see more than a million seeds sown across the city, which will bloom in November, timed to mark Remembrance Sunday.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families said:

“The centenary is of course something which is historic to all of us, as there is now no one left who remembers the full horrors of that war.

But this does not mean it is forgotten and planting these seeds is a great way of symbolising to this next generation the meaning and significance that war played in shaping the country we have today. When the seeds flower it will be an incredible distinctive visual aid and will really bring history to life. So many young men and boys lost their lives in the war that its impact lived on for generations. The poppies sprang up on the battlefields and became synonymous with the war. If this helps children and young people grasp history and see it come to life before their eyes it can only be a good thing.”

Seeds have been earmarked for all schools and will be distributed to all schools via Sheffield City Council in the coming weeks.

It is intended that the campaign will encourage discussion among teachers and pupils about the First World War, with many younger pupils being introduced to the conflict for the first time.

Poppies For Schools is one way which Sheffield plans to mark the First World War centenary commemorations, which also includes changes to the curriculum to teach about the First World War over the next four years (to mirror the length of the conflict).

Following a commission from the City Wide Learning Body, a number of schools are working together and with the council to prepare a variety of commemorative activities for schools, including events, visits and curricular material. This work is being coordinated by a World War One Commemorations – Schools Group comprised of teachers, Sheffield City Council staff, employees of Museums Sheffield and members of the Parents’ Assembly.

One of the many important outcomes of this project is that of establishing valuable legacies for the city. One of these is to ensure that children at school now and in the future grow up knowing the huge sacrifices that were made on their behalf by previous generations.

In addition to this, the Working Group is keen to establish a legacy of schools working together more closely. The history departments of two secondaries, including Notre Dame, are already collaborating to bring their ideas to fruition. These schools are piloting some activities in the summer, including their pupils visiting a primary school to do a presentation around their experiences of a recent trip to the battlefields.

Shaun O’Connor, history teacher at Notre Dame, said:

“History should never be confined to dusty old books and being able to symbolise the First World War and bring it to life for pupils of all ages across Sheffield with these poppies is a great way of teaching this period of history and marking the centenary of the war.

My pupils have been able to take this one step further by visiting first-hand the battlefields in Europe where so many men young and old lost their lives, many from Sheffield itself. It is hard for this generation to comprehend just what an impact this war had but it really did decimate families and communities. It is well documented the devastation it caused, and the poppies represent the sacrifice made by so many men but we must not forget the role of women in this war as well. Young girls acting as nurses in France and Belgium had to witness sights that we cannot begin to comprehend. Wives waiting for telegrams with the worst possible news.

Husbands returning as mere shells of their former selves – both physically and mentally. Wives and children having to deal with problems that today’s trained professionals would struggle with. It really is hard to imagine how they coped.

I am glad my pupils will now be able to share their experiences with younger pupils to tell them what they have learned.”

The campaign has been supported by Unwins Seeds, part of Westland Horticulture. Ken Evans, Commercial Director for Unwins Seeds, said:

“Unwins Seeds wholeheartedly support this campaign. We feel it is important that our children understand the meaning of the poppy and take pride in it as our national symbol of remembrance – we owe it to those who died so we might have a future – to never forget.”