MSSTA Diversity Panel 2016

main-qimg-c2776b7fe0b5c2d411ac68569ecde0edThis panel discussion scheduled for Friday, October 21st at 1:00 pm at the Manitoba Social Studies Teacher’s association PD Day will focus on including diverse perspectives in Canadian history classrooms in the 21st century.
Panelists include:

Matt Henderson (Moderator)
Matt will speak to the idea of Radical Experiences & Radical Diversity! Matt will highlight how understanding the unique experience of each learner may lead to a greater cognitive diversity within a learning community and a greater diversity in ideas, passions, and perspectives. Folks at this session will engage in a discussion about learning, power, privilege, and voice. Matt is the principal at the Maples Met School in the Seven Oaks School Division.

Daraius Bharucha
Daraius Bharucha was a Captain in the Merchant Marine before becoming an educator. He is currently the Department Head of History at Bill Crothers Secondary School in Unionville Ontario. Through the course of his academic and teaching career Daraius has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Governor Generals Silver Medal for Academic Excellence, The Governor Generals Award for Excellence in Teaching History, the George Hopton Award for History and has been recognised for his volunteer contributions to the community by the Government of Ontario. Daraius has been invited to speak and present at many local, national and international conventions and conferences and has authored publications and articles including curricula that have been widely used across North America.

Stefano Fornazzari San Martin
Stefano Fornazzari San Martin was the youngest of three brothers when he arrived to Vancouver as a political refugee with his parents who escaped the military dictatorship in Chile. He holds a Master’s in history from the University of Connecticut where he explored indigenous resistance to Spanish conquest. He is currently the Department Head of History at The Dr. GW Williams Secondary School in Aurora, Ontario.  He has two beautiful children he is raising in french with his wife Marie-Soleil, and enjoys vacationing in Quebec City at every opportunity. He has worked as an educational publishing consultant and reviewer, including being a part of the team that produced THE BIG SIX HISTORICAL THINKING CONCEPTS and other textbooks and teacher resources. Stefano and Daraius. M. Bharucha were awarded the Governor General’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2012 for their project entitled: MY PLACE IN CANADIAN HISTORY: DIGITAL STORYTELLING WITH HISTORICAL THINKING CONCEPTS.

Darius and Stefanon Stefano  be talking about identity creation and the way in which young people from diverse backgrounds can locate themselves within the spectrum of Canadian history. The idea being that it is through this location that a critical portion of their Canadian identity is developed and how this generally plays out in terms of the evolving notion of a modern Canadian identity.

Greg Miyanaga
For 27 years, Greg has taught Grades 2-7 in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver.  In 2006, he received the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History from Michaelle Jean. The Big Idea will be what teaching diverse perspectives and controversial issues looks like in an elementary classroom. He will use examples from his previous GG work in teaching about Japanese Canadian internment during the 1940s, and with my new work in a similar project called Landscapes of Injustice.

If you would like to provide feedback on this session, please do so below!

DoNow: Should the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Accommodate Wheelchairs?


Photo by Paul Armstrong

A few weeks ago, Member of Legislative Assembly and former Member of Parliament Steven Fletcher received a ruling from the Speaker of the House that did not go in his favour.

In the spring session of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, Steven Fletcher argued that his Parliamentary privilege was compromised as he wasn’t able to access all areas of the chamber.  You can read about his initial point here from an article on the CBC website.

A few weeks ago, the Speaker of the House offered her ruling and suggested that his privilege was not being compromised. You can read about her ruling here from the Winnipeg Free Press website.

Finally, here is an interview with Steven Fletcher following the the Speaker’s decision that he did on CBC Radio’s Up to Speed:

Steven Fletcher also suggests that his concerns might be brought up with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. Under the Manitoba Human Rights Code, people can make complaints if they have been discriminated against on the following grounds:

  • Ancestry
  • Nationality or national origin
  • Ethnic background or origin
  • Religion or creed, or religious belief, religious association or religious activity
  • Age
  • Sex, including sex-determined characteristics, such as pregnancy
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or family status
  • Source of income
  • Political belief, political association or political activity
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Social disadvantage

Do you feel that the Manitoba Legislative Assembly and the Government of Manitoba should make the chamber accessible for all Manitoban’s. Answer below or via Twitter, Vine, Instagram and by using the hashtag #DoNowMBLeg


DoNow: Are Physical Libraries Obsolete?


The Winnipeg Public Library Book Bike!

Do Now
Are physical libraries still useful? Should ebooks replace paper books? Why or why not? #DoNowLibraries

How to Do Now
To respond you can comment below or post your response on social media like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, etc. Remember to add #DoNowLibraries to your posts.

For over 5,000 years, libraries have been here to help us in many ways. But now with technology taking over, what will become of the thousands of libraries across the world?

Public libraries are a great resource for everybody. Whether you are a child, or a college student, anyone can use them. It’s free to get a library card, and if you’re under 18 you just need a legal guardian’s permission. Speaking of children, physical libraries are better for kids than ebooks for many reasons. “Children should read a printed book for their first read” says Monique, who is a librarian at the Millennium Library in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Children haven’t fully developed their brains, and reading and being around people is one of the best ways for children to grow. Reading is a skill everyone can use, and it’s best that children are exposed to the world of books.

But even with libraries being as useful as they are, ebooks are starting to get more and more popular. Ebooks are easier to travel with, cheaper, and are better for the earth. Although they seem like the best option, ebooks aren’t really the best for our health. The light from devices can cause eye strain, resulting in damaged eyes. Along with all those positive points, there are some disadvantages of ebooks. Devices only have a certain amount of battery life before you must charge them again, and on top of that, not everyone can afford a device. Ebooks also have an unreliable lifespans, when books can last for up to a hundred years, when kept in the right environment.

But if ebook popularity continues to grow, what will become of physical libraries and the people that work in them? According to Monique, librarians and library technicians are very important to the community, more than one would think. Their job, one of many, is to help people in the library to find books and specific information, and often they can give more information than expected. If we rule out libraries, we rule out librarians and we lose a powerful resource. They are able to access many books and are very knowledgeable about books to recommend to others. They are also a great person to have a conversation with. Librarians are something that we can’t lose.

Here is an interview with City of Winnipeg librarian Monique Woroniak who can help us with these questions:

What will become of libraries? Will ebook popularity continue to grow and takeover? Are physical libraries still useful? Should ebooks replace physical books?


In the Digital Age, What Becomes of the Library?

School Libraries Struggle with E-Book Loans

CdnPoli DoNow: Ratifying Climate Deal

Saturday April 23, 2016

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday April 23, 2016 

In November 2015, the Federal Government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, signed the Paris Climate Change agreement, whereby Canada, amongst other countries,pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent that global temperature increases could be kept under two degrees.

You can check out this TED talk by Johan Rockstrom to get a clear understanding of the impending ecological crisis:

Johan Rockström Planetary Boundaries from john on Vimeo.

In this Globe and Mail article, the premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, expressed concern that the provinces, members of the federation of Canada, have not been consulted.

Here is a Liberal MP speaking with the CBC about the need to ratify the Paris Agreement.

Using some of your new parliamentary literacy, answer the following question: Should Canada consult with the provinces before ratifying the Paris agreement and should Canada be doing more in terms of reducing emissions?

Answer using the comment section below or Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and/or other social media. Be sure to use the hashtag #cdnpoliDoNow. Be sure to use evidence from the sources provided and from your own research to support your claims.


For those keeping track of outcomes for your portfolio, here are some you may wish to address and provide evidence for:

Grade 9

Social Studies

  • Give examples of ways in which government affects their daily lives. Examples: rights and freedoms, security, laws, education, health care, services…
  • Describe Canadian parliamentary democracy. Include: constitutional monarchy, federalism, Governor General, Prime Minister, Cabinet, House of Commons, Senate.
  • Describe the responsibilities and processes of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.
  • Be sensitive to the impact of majority rule on minorities and marginalized groups.
  • Evaluate Canadian perspectives regarding current global issues.
  • Give examples of Canada’s participation within international organizations. Examples: United Nations, Commonwealth, la Francophonie, Olympics…
  • Evaluate implications of living in a consumer-based economy.


  • Develop a formula for domestic power consumption costs, and solve related problems.


  • question and reflect on personal responses, predictions, and interpretations; apply personal viewpoints to diverse situations or circumstances
  • acknowledge the value of others’ ideas and opinions in exploring and extending personal interpretations and viewpoints
  • analyze and explain connections between previous experiences, prior knowledge, and a variety of texts [including books]
  • obtain information and varied perspectives when inquiring or researching using a range of information sources [such as expository essays, books, radio and television transcripts, charts, tables, graphs, diagrams…]


  • Discuss information, ideas, and/or electronic work using tools for electronic communication. (Examples: email, electronic whiteboards, web pages, threaded discussions, videoconferences, chats, instant messages, camera phones, wikis, blogs, podcasts, online whiteboards…)


Grade 10


  • Draw conclusions and make decisions based on research and various types of evidence.

    Explain the importance of stewardship in the preservation of the Earth’s complex environment.

    Respect the Earth as a complex environment in which humans have important responsibilities.

    Describe sustainability issues related to natural resource extraction and consumption.


Teaching Canadian History


Over the past few months, I have been asked by a handful of fellow educators how I go about teaching Canadian history. As I am moving away from classroom teaching into an administrative role, I am somewhat saddened that I will not be directly designing learning experiences for learners, but grateful that these educators have prompted me to reflect on the past eight years of learning design.

When designing learning experiences related to the history of Canada, I tend not to start where I am at. I try not to inject my interests or experience into the design. As such, I angle away from the idea of beginning at a certain point — say Confederation — or from a thematic perspective. These two ideas seem to resonate as the central pillars in instructional design, but not necessarily in learning design.

Where I try to begin, and I should say that I fail often, is with two key ideas. The first is the experience of the learner and the second is with the very idea of history itself. In terms of the experience of the learner, I believe that it is critical that we come to know our students deeply before we begin to design learning experiences that are meaningful and educative in nature. This might well mean that our exploration of Canadian history might not delve into areas where we deem ourselves as experts. In fact on many occasions, I have been forced to leap out of my comfort zone and engage in discussions about areas of history that quite frankly I was ignorant. These are always the most fruitful explorations!

Learning about the experience of our learners also allows us to design with place in mind. Understanding what our learners understand about their territory, their city, the local ecosystems, and the biosphere itself, can help us plan future experiences. I often begin each year with an exploration as to what my learners know about Red River. Our exploration of Canadian history generally stems from a discussion about the rivers, the land, and their experience with the geography. From there, I often introduce Joseph Boyden’s Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont as a means of exploring the geography in an historical way. This also means that we need to get out of the classroom, explore the Forks, Fort Garry, and Union Station to begin to see how the landscape changed over the past three hundred years. (This is also a good time to introduce the historical thinking skills.)

Joel Westhiemer, in What Kind of Citizen?, suggests that understanding the roots of our learners is critical to learning design within the humanities. He suggests that what is important is “Root instruction in local contexts, working within your own specific surroundings and circumstances because it is not possible to teach democratic forms of thinking without providing an environment to think about.” (p. 80). For many of our young people, place is a central experience and something that they are attached to.

This emphasis on place has taken past learning communities I have been associated with on explorations of the HBC, feminist perspectives, and the Winnipeg General Strike. All of these bring in the notions of theme and chronology, but most importantly, become driven by the learner’s passion and experience.

Second, I have relied heavily on the contemplation of what history is to drive our learning and learning design. The Manitoba curriculum places emphasis on answering “What is history?” and this is a theme I try to introduce in each meeting. This is a fantastic question to really assess where learners are coming from, and when they reach the point of disequilibrium and frustration, I generally nudge them in the direction of Desmond Morton, who in his book A Short History of Canada, offers this as a definition:

“Whatever our future, we should understand how Canada has travelled through its most recent centuries to the present. If we follow that voyage, our history will give us confidence to change and compromise and in some enduring truths about communities and families and human beings. It should also tell us that no ideas, however deeply held, last forever.” (p.ix).

As such, Morton suggests that history is about a collective and very human experience. It is not simply a study of the past, but it is a quest to understand why it is we exist on this planet. What greater voyage could we embark on with our learners? Pulling this idea into every meeting grounds learning communities into a quest that reaches far beyond tests, quizzes, and the regurgitation of someone else’s story. History becomes a quest of sense making and a search for meaning.

So for those incredible educators who have been toying with how to design their learning experiences this year within the context of Canadian history, I leave you with these tiny nuggets from my past experience. Listen to your learners and challenge them to make meaning out of our collective and short experience on Earth.