Students recognized at national level
Chatham Christian School (CSS) is one of the first Ontario Christian schools to hold a heritage fair but vice-principal Scott Beda expects more schools to follow in coming years.
Beda, who admits to being a history aficionado, spearheaded the CSS’s first heritage fair two years ago.
He organized a second one last year. Both times CSS students won provincial awards and were selected to go on to the national fair.
The Historica Fairs Program is a national initiative started in 1993 to encourage students to explore Canadian history in a hands-on learning environment. Students tell stories about Canadian heroes, legends, milestones, and achievements using a medium of their choice and present the results of their research at a public exhibition.
For the 2006-2007 CSS heritage fair Beda asked students to find any photo from Canadian history and tell the story behind it. Students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 could choose whether they wanted to participate or not. About 40 projects were entered.
On exhibition day, held in December, the entire school took part in the learning experience by surveying the projects, which were set up in the gym.
Beda also organized an interactive history component for the exhibition. Students could watch minutes-long segments of Canadian history and discuss them, or dress in period costumes and have black and white pictures taken. Younger children could colour history-themed pages or listen to a story told by someone in costume.
This past year one student, who was eventually selected to go on to the national level, based his project on a photograph of his grandfather who fought at Dieppe in the Second World War. His grandfather accompanied him for the project exhibition and the student wore his grandfather’s uniform.
“It was a fantastic project,” says Beda.
For the 2005-2006 school year two Grade 8 students, Christy and Brianna, researched former Primer Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950) at a local museum. Their project was also selected for a provincial award and one of them was able to attend the national heritage fair in Halifax.
In an interesting turn of events, a local Chatham-Kent woman heard about the girls’ project and invited them to her home.
Her father had been a member of Mackenzie King’s party and she had some documents and photos to show them. She insisted they take the memorabilia to Halifax where other fair participants were thrilled to see the authentic items. When they returned the articles to the woman she asked that they be the ones to take it to the museum, where they had first begun their research.
“It was a very cool story,” says Beda.
Plans are to offer the fair again this year at the school. At least two other Ontario Christian schools have run heritage fairs in the past.
For more information about the Historica Fairs Program, see www.histori.ca.