[caption id=”attachment_394” align=”aligncenter” width=”348”] The publication’s title page features a Canadian soldier, Emily Pauline Johnson, a young Galician immigrant, Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Emily Carr.[/caption]
In a speech delivered just after losing the 1911 election for Prime Minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier, described Canada as “the inspiration for my life.” While many Canadian leaders have expressed similar sentiments since, Laurier’s approach to politics was unique for his time.
Fuelled by a belief in the value of compromise, Laurier was able to find a thoughtful way through complicated issues. That can’t have been easy in an era characterized by societal change, disparate voices, French-English tension and immigration. According to former (Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools) OACS director of learning, Gary VanArragon, this makes him a particularly relevant historical figure for us to study today.
Laurier’s preference for “The Sunny Way” which came to represent the thoughtful discourse and middle-ground approach he encouraged during his years as Canada’s Prime Minister, is the central theme in the newest OACS Intermediate History publication, The Laurier Years: Canada 1885 - 1912. It also defines the unit’s driving question: Is the Canadian way the sunny way?
The writers who contributed to The Laurier Years took up the engaging task of addressing that driving question from a number of vantage points. Their carefully crafted lessons cover a range of topics — which affirm and call into question the effectiveness of Laurier’s “Sunny Way.” Other questions flow from and around this theme, providing teachers and students with a wide spectrum of ideas to ponder.
Albert Kok’s lesson on urbanization and manufacturing challenges us to think about how people withheld and upheld justice as they faced rapid population increase and a diversifying population. Justin Versteeg’s lesson on marginal peoples in this time considers the government’s shifting treatment of First Nations people, focusing on the difference between viewing this group of the nation’s population as ally to ward. And, Jody Scheer’s lesson about the temperance movement considers how the Famous Five permanently changed the position of women and children in Canada, and brought about a measure of justice and equality in the process.
Ultimately, this history resource is meant to serve as a kind of guide or map, and not a how-to manual. As OACS director of information architecture, Chris van Donkelaar points out, “we’re aiming to provide a broad framework for the subject that is expectations aware (not driven). Providing the strong Christian perspective and resources necessary to support students (and teachers!) in their learning, and ultimately fill classrooms with activity ideas through our membership’s collaborative platform and expertise.”
With the publication’s unit overview finished and all but two lesson outlines nearing completion, the next phase of the project has become a reality. The OACS is now ready to invite teachers from across Canada to submit their own activity ideas! At the bottom of each lesson, members of the eCurriculum platform will find a simple, “Post an Activity” section that will allow them to add, in real-time, activity ideas or samples to that lesson. As the OACS hosts this collaboration we will also be listening to the suggestions and support the most exciting examples by creating and publishing additional resources (such as handouts) around specific activity ideas. The hope is to inspire the sort of national participation that will allow the OACS to weave a variety of voices, insights, and perspectives into our evolving publication.
Writers of the Laurier Years kept this in mind, as they collaborated and created their lessons — leaving room for both student and teacher to make connections about this chapter of Canadian history. Justin Versteeg has stated that he’d like to see teachers submitting activities that demonstrate how “the issues we face today have root in the Laurier years” — which is a theme that made the subject particularly compelling to the other writers with whom he worked.
While teachers will find different entry ways into the material, Ron Vandenburg, author of two lessons in the publication, hopes that they will be willing to share the activities that worked. “I would be excited to see teachers and student learning that shows the excitement of learning. ‘We tried this! This is something amazing that you all should do’ — Lessons that show teacher and student passion, excitement and learning should be shared with the eCurriculum community. Whenever I see another teacher sharing ‘what worked’, I get excited because we can all learn from those experiences.”
The OACS would like to thank the Canadian Christian Education Foundation for its generous grant towards the Laurier Years project, along with teachers like Jody Scheer, Albert Kok, Justin Versteeg and Ron VandenBurg, who offered their time and gifts to begin writing this publication. The OACS appreciates the input of Diane Stronks and Joanne den Boer, whose thoughtful commentary and ideas were a blessing to the OACS directors and writers during The Laurier Years book sprint sessions. In addition, the OACS is grateful to the Christian Schools Canada Standing Learning Committee, who helped create the unique learning template guiding this project.