Each fort was home to around 500 soldiers. Get pupils to discuss what facilities would be needed for the men and their commander to be able to live there – e.g. they would have needed somewhere to sleep, somewhere to wash etc. Compare their list with a list of what a Roman fort actually included (see downloadable resources for a plan of a typical fort). What would be the best layout for the fort? Pupils can discuss and plan their ideal layout before comparing this with real thing.
In groups, pupils can research each different building and find out what kind of activities took place in each one, then prepare and a short talk explaining the role of each building.
A large floor plan of the fort could be created, or even built out of Lego or other building materials. Pupils could make a set of Roman soldiers – or dress Playmobil people or other dolls appropriately to inhabit the fort.
Then visit a fort site – Bar Hill and Rough Castle are the two most complete forts along the Wall. Get the pupils to ‘become archaeologists’. Can they identify where the original buildings were? Ask the pupils who are the ‘experts’ in each building to deliver the talk they prepared in the classroom and tell the others about it. Pupils could re-enact some of the activities on site. Take pictures of what survives. Pace out or measure any existing features. Discuss why so little is left.
Back in the classroom, pupils could create posters showing the site ‘then’ and ‘now’, using the photographs taken on site and drawings showing what the fort might have looked like when in use.
Replica Roman objects and costume can be purchased from educational suppliers (e.g. www.tts-group.co.uk) or borrowed from your local museum to add another element to discussion and focus for interest (see museums’ page for more information and contact details). Objects could be compared with modern-day equivalents.