History moved from past to present at Brantford Christian School (BCS) recently, as students hosted a History Fair Open House to showcase the research they had done on important people and events in Canada’s past.
“When I walked into the gym, I felt like I’d walked into a museum made by the people I know,” shared grade six student Isabelle Haan. “It was amazing to see all the hard work and talent of my schoolmates!”
For the past twelve years, BCS has been intentional about providing an opportunity for students to focus on the various humanities—rotating between history, science, the arts, and book fairs. Although the research of some of the grades extended beyond Canadian history, this year’s History Fair fit in nicely with Canada’s anniversary celebrations.
“The people and the events in history were real, and they have shaped us,” shared grade four teacher Jannette Mazereeuw. “The History Fair gave students the opportunity to research various topics that have significantly affected the course of history. We encouraged them to see how their topic of study affected society at that time, and how it helped to change and shape what our society is today. We also encouraged them to see how God’s hand was on the event, product, or individual and how His sovereignty was evident through the topic they focused their research on.”
Teachers and students began preparing for the History Fair soon after returning from Christmas break. Each grade focused on a slightly different theme or aspect of history—the younger grades studying aspects of Canadian history, and students in the older grades looking at a wider scope of history that included other countries as well.
The grade four students at BCS were challenged to pick a famous explorer and to learn about how that person contributed to the history of Canada. Each student presented their research findings on a poster board, and shared them with their class. Once completed, the poster boards were placed in chronological order around a big map of Canada and displayed in the gym for parents and community members to enjoy during the Open House.
“I am fascinated by the explorers who discovered unknown lands and were brave enough to go, even though they knew nothing about the land or what awaited them there!” shared Jeramiah. His classmate Lydia agreed. “I love mysteries, and the disappearance of Henry Hudson is a big mystery that I’ve always wanted to learn more about. And I had no idea that the Hudson Bay was named after him!”
Although they had learned some things about Canadian explorers in class, having the opportunity to research their own explorers in more detail gave students a closer look at their lives and the hardships they had to survive in their adventures. “I love snow and find the Arctic really cool, so I focused on explorers that ventured north,” shared Stephanie. “I didn’t realize that the exploration of the Arctic was only a hundred years ago, after Canada was already established as a country. I loved learning about Pearson and Henson, two explorers that went to the North Pole and had to survive in the cold.”
To add to their display on the explorers in Canada, the students in grade four researched and created examples of various types of Native artwork. They each made an inukshuk, a tipi or decorated buffalo hide, and a wax resist bird drawing inspired by the story, “How the Birds got their Feathers” told by native storyteller Joseph Bruchac. The students also studied the Northwest Coast Native art, and made a very distinct Haida animal print.
“It seemed like a lot of work to get everything done,” Jeramiah admitted. “Sometimes I had to make corrections or redo stuff, but I learned a lot while doing it, and slow and steady wins the race.”
Art played a key role in the study and presentation of Canada’s history for other grades as well. To enhance their history/writing/media unit on the Group of Seven—a group of Canadian landscape painters from 1920-1933—the grade five students were led through a collaborative art project. Each student was given a small portion of one of the Group of Seven’s pieces of artwork to draw and paint, making sure that their lines and paint colours matched up with the pieces of their classmates. At the Open House, the collaborative paintings done by students in previous years were also displayed, creating a miniature timeline of their own.
“It was fun to overhear past grade five students discuss which painting was theirs, and how the paintings were different each year,” shared art teacher Valerie Vanderwoerd. “Each one was unique in style and colour, and it brought a sense of satisfaction for students to see the pieces that they’d worked on in previous years displayed at the Open House as well.”
Grade six teacher Jennifer Dreise designed a project for her class in which she divided several different aspects of life in Ancient Greece into categories, and assigned each student to dig deeper into one of them. Students created a poster on their topic and prepared a creative presentation to aid in sharing their learning with others. In addition, the students researched various Greek urns, containers, pitchers and pottery, and designed their own container. Starting with an inflated balloon, students added layers of paper maché to create their shapes, and once their work had dried they covered their pots with painted designs.
“Everyone has their own abilities and interests,” shared grade six student Gloria. “The History Fair was a great place to see people’s different personalities come out in their work.” Her classmate Tyler agreed, and was excited to see the final products displayed for parents at the Open House evening. “When I first walked into the gym, I was in awe. Everyone’s hard work had definitely paid off—it was fabulous!”
The History Fair also provided an opportunity for students to become comfortable with presenting their own understanding of the subject matter they had researched. A highlight of the evening for the grade four students was the opportunity to act as museum tour guides on the evening of the Open House. Students were assigned various time slots throughout the evening where they were responsible for guiding the visitors around the museum carousel that they had created, to explain more about the early exploration in Canada. The students had collaborated in class on what to put on their cue cards so that they would have guidelines on what to share with their visitors. They talked about where each form of artwork could be found in Canada, how the First Nations would use the materials they found in the land, and how each nation adapted to their physical environment.
“I was sort of excited to be a museum guide,” shared Cohen. “But I was also a little scared. I had never done this before and I didn’t know how many people would come or if they would ask difficult questions.” Jeramiah agreed. “Knowing that we were going to be the ‘teachers’ for the evening meant that we really had to know our stuff!”
“It certainly was motivating for the students to know that the audience for their work was the entire Brantford Christian School community,” shared Ms. Vanderwoerd. “The students worked very hard on their projects and they could be proud of the work they presented to those who came to the Open House.”
BCS principal Justin DeMoor was excited to see that the students took an active role in presenting their work to parents and community members who came out to the evening Open House. “It was wonderful to see so many people from the BCS community come out to the event. Beautiful work is meant to be shared with a real audience, and we certainly had that!”. Mr. DeMoor was also thrilled to see the students gaining a deeper appreciation for the people and events in history. “As someone who was a history major in university, it was fascinating for me to see history come alive for the students as they spent time researching their projects.”
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