World War II
This list consists of lesson plans, activities and ideas to support the teaching of science through the topic of World War II. It contains ideas for how to link science to the topic, tips on using the resources, suggestions for further use and background subject knowledge to support teachers in delivering the science objectives through this topic. Resources support the teaching of the science topics light, Earth in Space, forces, electricity and materials. This enables teachers to choose which aspect of science they would like to teach within the overarching topic.
Visit the primary resources for cross curricular topics webpage to access all resource lists:
Links and Resources
Earth in Space
During WWII many of the attacks took place during the night. In fact certain phases of the moon were given nicknames by the RAF men such as ‘Bombers Moon’. On numerous occasions famous battle dates were set in order to take advantage of the certain phase of the moon.
Which phases of the moon were likely to be used for bombing raids? When would the next ‘Bombers Moon’ be?
This resource explains the phases of the moon and how they occur including a recording template for the phases of the moon activity.
This resource or ‘giant jigsaw puzzle’ offers the students the opportunity to fully explore the lunar surface and assemble the completed images of the Moon.
The Second World War showed an increase reliance on the use of electricity from creating complex circuits to power search lights, sending signals to set off air raid sirens and sending messages to different positions on the fighting line.
As part of the messaging system the Army and Navy etc used the Morse code. Challenge the children to make their own electrical circuit which recreates a Morse code system, possibly even with a different switch for the longer and shorter light flashes.
This resource contains all the instructions and a copy of the .. - - dot / dash coding system for the alphabet and number systems. (See File 3 - Using a circuit).
A very famous invention in WWII was the Bouncing Bomb which was invented in 1942; they were used to destroy the dams at Mohne in the Ruhr area by blowing up the dam walls. It was a very difficult job to work out when to drop the bombs on the surface of the water, so they used a special system to measure their height from the surface of the water, when the two lights, one at the front and one at the back of the plane met, then the set height had been achieved.
Can you investigate at what angle the lights need to be in order to give a specific height when the light beams meet? The children will need to use models of the approximate scale of the planes (a piece of card will suffice) and torches set a specific angle to then try to recreate the beams. They could then lower the ‘plane’ until the two beams touch, then this will allow them to create a table showing the angle of the beam compared to the height of the plane which the Dambusters used in order to create the ideal height at which to release the bouncing bombs.
This short video creates an ideal opportunity to talk about light angles and overlapping of light beams etc.
The children obviously need to understand how light travels and reaches their eyes so that they can ‘see’ the object, if they are still unsure of this you may need to complete a demonstration and activity such as the one on the video prior to designing and making the periscopes .
Submarines became powerful forces of action in WWII as they had the ability to hide beneath the surface of the sea, yet still attack ships and boats as they sailed with precious cargos either of provisions or fighting men and their equipment. In order to see where their target was they used periscopes. This was also true of the soldiers who were in the trenches who used periscopes to watch the enemy. Can you design and create your own periscope to look around the corner of the class cloakroom?
During WWII many of the bombing raids took place at night so very powerful lights were used as searchlights to find the enemy planes as they approached their land based target. The lights often contained reflectors around the main light itself, similar in principle to lighthouse lights. Design an investigation, possibly even using a data logger, to compare the different brightness of bulbs with or without reflectors (mirrors or shiny surfaces) around the bulb.
Blackout blinds were used on all windows and doorways to reduce the amount of light escaping from houses and businesses, so that enemy bombers would not be able to identify urban areas and subsequently bomb them.
Which is the best material to create a blackout blind?
How could you use the data loggers to measure the effectiveness of blocking out light of different materials?
A regular sight in WWII was the carrying of gas masks, not only by adults but also children, there were even gas masks which covered the whole of the baby. The idea behind the gas masks was to filter out the harmful and poisonous gases which were being dropped as bombs by the German Luftwaffe. Using your knowledge of how filtering works, can you test out a range of different filters and investigate how small the particles are which the filters can actually separate out?
This resource gives a variety of investigations and exploration opportunities in order for the children to understand separating and filtering, depending on what the children have previously been taught - you could choose a starting point from this resource. You could also use the concept cartoon to assess what the children know about this area or let them create their own concept cartoon linked to the filtering of gases and gas masks.
From September 1940, the Luftwaffe began to focus its attacks on British cities. Many different bombs including explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped on the UK. The incendiary bombs were designed to start fires. Can you classify and group a range of materials based on which would be most suitable for house construction especially during war time periods? Investigate the construction of wartime shelters such as Anderson shelters and the materials which they were constructed of and why.
Use this activity to investigate the knowledge of different liquids and for pupils to discuss the evidence and information they have to decide on what happened during this bombing raid. Health and Safety – please read the attached information in the resource carefully and decide if you are going to use this more as a demonstration activity or if you are going to substitute the materials for more suitable chemicals to use in the classroom.
Barnes Wallis the inventor of the bouncing bomb had to overcome many difficulties and challenges whilst creating the bomb. He had to make a lot of calculations based on the air and water resistance which the bombs would be exposed to, from leaving the plane, through the air, hitting the water and then the final bounce towards the wall.
This link allows the pupils to investigate the air resistance created by shapes with poor aerodynamics (Air resistance – activity 1) and then look at the forces created as different shapes move (Forces and air resistance –activity 3).
If the children are looking into angles of bounce too, this simulation allows them to investigate the distance or approach of the plane if the bouncing bomb bounces at a constant angle of 45º in order for it to hit the dam wall.