Film ID:
NEFA 21933



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An educational film made by Bede College, Durham, for Durham County Educational Committee to show how drama can be used as an educational tool in primary schools. Filmed at Tanfield Lea Primary School in County Durham, the films show pupils recreating a wagon train crossing the American West using only pieces of school equipment and their own imaginations. The pupils develop their own story and act out the trials and tribulations of a wagon train making its way across the vast and sometimes hostile landscape of the American West. While some of the pupils play the setters, others become Native Americans.

Title: Durham County Council Education Committee

Title: “The Waggon Train” An Exercise in Primary Drama

The film opens in a large classroom with children sitting on two parallel gymnasium benches. A boy in the middle of the group holds some rope, which act as ‘reins’ as he drives a make-believe horse and wagon, as used by pioneers in the wild west of America.

Other boys mimic riding a horse on another piece of gymnasium equipment. They get off the ‘horse’ and run across the room where other child recreate being ‘Indians’ or Native Americans standing with their chief.

The Native Americans circle two girls who stand on stools. In between them, a boy stands with his arms outstretched imitating a totem pole. The girls are prisoners who are tied up. The Native Americans gather round the two girls.

The commentary outlines that the ten-year-old children use drama to depict the story of a wagon train journey across America and this will help them to better understand the rigours and problems experienced on such a hazardous trek.

The teacher speaks to his class and the children are asked for suggestions on how they should represent the story. The children explain that they will require food for the journey and they act out the purchasing of provisions.

The children start to make up individual ‘wagons’ for the wagon train out of desks and gym equipment. The children group together as families, each with their own wagon, and they climb on board. With sounds of neighing horses made by the children, the wagon train gets underway. The make believe horses are whipped into action by the wagon drivers.

They sing a song ‘The Little Red Wagon’. Boys mimick the riding of horses as they dash about the classroom.

The children gather in a meeting to solve difficulties on their journey. One boy acts as leader or wagon master. They come to a solution, then get back to their wagons. The wagons seem to be stuck and a number of children push, some putting a lot of effort into getting themselves out of their plight.

A number of accidents are devised to add to the drama of the journey. Each wagon ‘family’ works out how the accident will be staged. One of the wagons collapses quite spectacularly, others have similar mishaps.

The drama continues by way of a calmer interlude. The girls set out a long table with plates and cups for serving food and drink.

The film cuts to the children, presumably camped out for the night, asleep on the floor. A boy wanders amongst the sleeping bodies, carrying a ‘rifle’ as the night watchman for the wagon train.

The children create a change of scene as they construct a Native Americans encampment, construct tepees and make head dresses.

Two boys acting as lookouts for the encampment leap onto a ‘horse’ and ride back to camp to convey news to their chief. They report that they have spotted an approaching wagon train.

A group of Native Americans infiltrate the wagon train camp as it sleeps. The watchman with the rifle is attacked and tied up, then the Indians capture a woman with a young child.

Later the watchman is untied by members of the wagon train and explains to the wagon master what happened. The wagon master demands to know to which family the woman and child belong.

Back to the two female captives tied to a totem pole as other children dressed as Native Americans dance around them. The Indians stop as they spot members of the wagon train approaching. The chief and the wagon master meet face to face.

The chief asks the wagon master and his companions what they want. He replies that they want the ‘women and child’.

The wagon master and chief begin to fight and the wagon master stabs the chief who collapses on the floor.

The film ends with the captured ‘women and child’ free and the waggon train resuming its journey.

Credits: Made at Tanfield Lea County Primary School, Co. Durham, with the kind co-operation of the headmaster, I. V. Garnham. Deputy Headmaster, W. W. Wells and pupils.

Devised and produced by the staff and students of Bede College, Durham in collaboration with a D. A. Griffiths (County Drama Organiser for Schools) and J. Sweeney B.A. (County Audio Visual Aids Organiser).

Production: Roy Knight M.A., D. A. Griffiths

Camera: E. Wallace, D. R. Williams

Editing: D. R. Williams

Sound: P. R. Thurman, C. Mann, G. M. Bone

Title: The End