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Canada's Coolest School Trip

Written on February 13th, 2017

Each time that one of the twenty-three students in grades seven and eight at Milton Christian School (MCS) finishes another drawing for their video project, they are one step closer to their dream coming true—a chance for their class to travel to Nova Scotia to explore the beautiful landscape and to experience five of Canada’s National Historic Sites.

To highlight the fact that Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, and that it is also the 100th anniversary of the National Historic Sites across the country, grade eight teacher Stacey Voorberg decided to challenge her students to enter a video contest. The students need to create a sixty second video about a Canadian national park, conservation area, or historic site, and why it is important to Canada’s story.

“I liked the idea of giving my students a reason to do research and to find ways to tell a story that reflects the history of our country in a way that’s meaningful to them,” she shared.  “I saw the advertisement for this video contest in a Canadian Geographic magazine last year and that the prize— ‘Canada’s Coolest School Trip’—is a five-day trip for my entire class to Nova Scotia, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ “

To be eligible for the prize, the grade seven and eight students must research a Parks Canada place and create an informative and creative one-minute video that demonstrates how others can experience what their chosen place has to offer, and what significance it has had in creating the Canada we know today.

Before Christmas, Ms. Voorberg had each of her students research a national park, a national historic site, or a national marine conservation area, and then share their findings with the rest of the class. After listening to the presentations, the class chose their three favorite places and voted to decide which one they would use as a focus for their video.

Mark, a grade seven student at MCS, was excited that they chose the Rideau Canal. “I think the place we chose is really good,” he shared. “It’s interesting and not necessarily very well known to a lot of people, and I think our video will show off its importance in Canada’s story.”

His classmate Jessica agreed. “At first I wasn’t really sure if the Rideau Canal was a good choice, because there were so many other places that seemed more important or showier that might have a better chance of winning,” she admitted. “But then, when we did the research, I could see that this is a really important part of Canada’s history, and it can be in the future as well, and people should know about it.”

Because the Rideau Canal is over six hours away from their school, the students at Milton Christian School had to be creative about how they would demonstrate the importance of the waterway in their video. They decided to create a series of drawings that would present the canal in its various stages of building, and then speed up the video so that the entire process could be captured in under a minute.

“My favorite part of the whole project has been the part where we videotape our hands drawing the pictures,” shared Clara. “It’s fun that the final video will show all of our hands working at high speed to make the drawings, and then when they are all put together it will tell a really cool story about the canal.”

All of the work for the video has to be done by the students—a challenge that has made Ms. Voorberg nervous on more than one occasion already, while coming alongside the students. “They’ve definitely been learning a lot!” she shared. “They’re learning how to use iMovie in their Tech class so that they can edit and cut the videos. And they’ve had to research the story of the canal to make sure they are sharing the correct chronology of events. But every time they’ve run into a roadblock, I keep telling them that I have no idea how to do it either, so they have to go back and research the problem for themselves.”

Each of these roadblocks has turned out to be a learning opportunity for the students. “One of the things we noticed as soon as we started the videotaping was that there were a lot of shadows on peoples hands when they were drawing,” shared Connor. “We needed to find a solution, because you couldn’t see the work very well. So we decided to design a lightbox to project the light onto our hands and drawings.”

“That was such a fun challenge!” added Mason. “We took a cardboard box, lined the inside with white paper, and cut holes in the sides for lights. Then we added foil wrap to the top so that there were no more shadows and cut a hole in the top for the camera to go through. It was fun that our teacher just gave us the problem and told us to do the research and make the lightbox—so we did—and it really works!”

The completed video will need to be submitted in less than two weeks. After that, there is a window of time between March 6th and 24th where students will have to get as many votes as they can on their video. “The students are already busy planning for ways to publicize their video and to advertise the need to vote,” Ms. Voorberg pointed out. They’ve created an Instagram account for the school and are already posting things about the video project as it progresses—they are definitely on top of things!”

Grade eight students Grace and Kelsey have been creating short story clips to advertise their video using “fingerlings”—characters painted on their fingers. “We wanted to find a way to get the message out to everyone that they should keep voting for our video, and fingerlings are fun for people of all ages to watch,” shared Grace. Kelsey agreed. “We are going to put together a short series of stories that the fingerlings will act out, and then hopefully we’ll videotape them using a green screen so that the characters appear to be at the Rideau Canal. We want to be sure that we are keeping people’s attention and they will remember to vote.”

If the video stays in the top ten during the voting period, the winner will then be selected by a panel of judges, and the winning class will be boarding a plane on a trip of a lifetime. The tour will include a visit to Fort Anne—Canada’s first national historical site. As well, students will experience the Mi’kmaq culture in Kejimkujik National Park, discover the haunted tunnels and chambers of the Halifax Citadel National Historic site, visit with Samuel de Champlain at Port Royal National Historic Site, and uncover the tragic and powerful Acadian history at the UNESCO World Heritage and National Historic Site.

“I think the students have done an amazing job on this project,” concluded Ms. Voorberg. They’ve worked together to choose a piece of Canada’s history that they feel is important to share, and they’ve rallied together to overcome obstacles such as lighting, inexperience, time restraints, and even little things like batteries dying in the middle of taping a segment. The process itself has been such a valuable teaching tool—if we win, it’ll just be a huge bonus!”

The students of MCS would greatly appreciate your support for their video during the voting period from March 6th to March 24th. This is an awesome opportunity for us, and we would love to see as many people as possible supporting our hard work. You can follow us on Instagram at @miltonchristianschool for updates, and for instructions on when and how you can vote. 

Thank you very much for your consideration and for taking your time to read this!

~Jacob, grade 8, Milton Christian School