DoNow: Canada 150

Welcome to our friends from Cape Breton! This week, the Maples Met School hosts our new friends from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and then in June, our Metsters will be head to the East Coast.

We have some really exciting activities planned for the upcoming week, including experiences at the Manitoba Museum, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg Harvest, The Forks, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Upper Fort Garry, the Royal Aviation Museum, and much more!

One event will situate us at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. On Thursday, March 16th, the Walrus, a Canadian magazine which looks at current affairs, literature, and general interest articles, is hosting a discussion series called We Desire a Better Country. The event is sold out, but we have managed to secure a few tickets!

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Image from the Walrus Magazine

This is a really profound proposition and this week we would like you to contemplate a couple of things. First, in light of Canada 150, what has been the impact of Confederation on both Nova Scotia and Manitoba? What have been the causes and consequences of Confederation in both provinces and how has it impacted people, the land, the ecology, and how each province governs itself?

Secondly, looking at the continuity and change of each province, how might we construct a better Canada? What do we mean by better and for whom?

In your groups of four, you need to respond in the following ways:

  1. On Monday, begin to create a skit, song, or performance of any kind which answers the two questions above. (We will provide you time throughout the week to work on this.)
  2. Elect a person from your group to attend the Walrus talk on Thursday.
  3. Each group needs to respond to the questions using FlipGrid. Each member can provide a response, or all four members can create one.

On Friday, March 17th, groups will be able to present their performances at our potluck dinner at the Maples Met. If you are using social media throughout the week, please use the following hashtag: #DoNowCanada150.

We will be posting photos, tweets, and FlipGrid responses throughout the week, so be precise, be courteous, and be thoughtful. As you venture from place to place, be sure to collect evidence for your responses. (Hint: Take pictures, write notes, post photos, Tweet links, etc.)

You can follow the Maples Met on Twitter and Instagram

 

 

Teaching Canadian History

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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.

 

 

 

 

Genocide: Then & Now

On Wednesday, March 16th, our Global Issues class was able to participate in Kairos Canada’s Blanket Activity. We were joined by members of the Wildwood neighbourhood and also by members of the congregation of Fort Garry United.

The experience allowed us to explore Canada’s colonial history through the lens of indigenous peoples. We were led by Cree elder Connie Budd from the Northend Stella Community Ministry.

Here is one small group reflection that was captured:

On Thursday, March 17th, 2016, our Global Issues class took part in the 15th Annual Holocaust Symposium at the University of Winnipeg. There, we heard from Holocaust survivour Pinchas Gutter, who spoke of his journey.

Using both of these experiences, reflect on the notion of genocide. What are your takeaways from these experiences? How have the informed you or not?

Using the following Padlet, comment on your takeaways from the experience using text, audio and/or video.

What is History? (Term Test Edition)

6a00d8341bf7f753ef01b8d0a244ce970cAs part of your Term 1 test, participants in the History of Canada, the History of the United States, and the History of Modern China courses will need to contemplate what they mean by history. Specifically, what is history, what do we mean by the doing of history, and how do we do history? Members of our learning communities are asked to ponder what they think history is and then offer their personal philosophy and methodology.

Last night, I listened to Margaret McMillan’s lecture on CBC’s Ideas on what history might be. Have a listen if you get a chance. Once again, she has challenged me on my naive notions of history. I also love the way the program’s host, Paul Kennedy, introduces us to the idea of history.

This term, we have looked closely at the positioning of Desmond Morton, an SJR grad, Rhodes Scholar, and author of our History of Canada text, Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, and Odd Westad, who wrote Restless Empire.

In the History of Canada, we also looked at what Thomas King called history in the Inconvenient Indian, while those in the History of Modern China examined the process of Michael Dillon. Peter Stearns offers another interpretation of why we do history.

In this space, let’s enter into a dialogue as to what we think history is, why we do it, and how we do it. Let’s ensure that we are precise, that we use evidence, and that we are kind to each other when we respond.

Here is one example of an historian describing what he does. How can his understanding inform our discussion? What is history to him? Why do we do history?

Here is another historian taking about the use of memory:

To help massage our dialogue, I leave you with David Christian’s explanation of “Big History.” Is this an history?

Historical Thinking Walking Tour 2015!

About to enter Upper Fort Garry, the birthplace of Manitoba.

About to enter Upper Fort Garry, the birthplace of Manitoba.

Yesterday, we had an amazing and hopefully educative experience where we were able to walk throughout downtown Winnipeg and engage in the pursuit of several important questions. The first question we are tackling has two parts: firstly, who were the Métis, and secondly, who are the Métis in 2015? To help us with this, we have been reading Joseph Boyden’s Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont and Katherena Vermette’s North End Love Songs. She will be joining us in person on Thursday.

Our next line of questioning has to do with two of the historical thinking concepts; that of historical significance an continuity and change. Throughout your walk, where we visited the Forks, Upper Fort Garry, the St. Boniface Museum, and the Winnipeg Railway Museum, what has changed? What has remained the same? How fast was this change and why?

Who were the Métis? At the St. Boniface Museum

Who were the Métis? At the St. Boniface Museum

As well, we saw several plaques and interpretive signs. How did the creators of these signs establish historical significance and do you agree?

Use photos, video, and evidence you gathered from our tour to help you out and be sure to post your WordPress link in Edmodo and under this thread.

Be precise and clear, as your post will be visible to the entire world, via WordPress. Please check out the work of your colleagues and offer insight and praise. Can you determine your colleague’s argument? Are they being clear? What evidence are they using?

The Countess of Dufferin -- The first steam locomotive in the Northwest, circa 1877.

The Countess of Dufferin — The first steam locomotive in the Northwest, circa 1877.