Secret Messages Project

I was contacted by Peter Humphries from Sir John Nelthorpe School in Brigg, North Lincolnshire this week, who wanted to being my attention to the Secret Messages Project

Amongst his other roles and talents, he is Vice President of the Midlands National Flying Club 
The Royal Racing Pigeon Association were looking for a project, and the MNFC had already developed a Flying Back to Nature campaign. 
Peter's school was looking for different cross curricular projects to commemorate WW1. 
The government was also trying to promote enthusiasm for cryptography in schools. 
Secret Messages was a perfect time to bring together both organisations and an opportunity to create a commemoration event for WW1.  I have placed the website in My Resources on the TES website and had arranged approximately 100 visits so far and had excellent feedback from staff. The project has been requested in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland in recent weeks. The humble homing pigeon carried vital secret messages in both WWI and WWII. The project is completely FREE for schools to book.
How the Secret Messages project using homing pigeons operates.
  • Pupils place their message into a canister and learn how to attached to the pigeon’s leg.
  • Pupils are taught how to hold the pigeon and then release their bird from an experienced pigeon fancier. Soldiers would have had to learn this skill.
  • The homing pigeon is released and sets off for home carrying the message back to the code breakers at Kingsmead School.
  • When the bird arrives home the message is taken from the canister and the message is decoded as fast as possible by a team of code breakers. 
  • The decoded message, the original coded message and with a series of challenges suitable to the ability of the pupils are emailed back to the organising teacher at the school. 

The pupils have to describe the homing pigeon’s journey from their school back home to their loft at Kingsmead School. Each school has a presentation and the Google Earth image and elevation profile with key landforms or places added. We could attach GPS to the pigeon and record some examples of the difference between the straight-line and their actual routes home. The pupils are given challenges to work out the speed of the journey.
There are opportunities to research famous WW1 and WWII homing pigeons which won the Dickin medal. 32 our of the 65 medals were awarded to homing pigeons (PDSA). 

The project is apparently free to schools, and you can book a time in 2015 to get involved.