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Benchmarks of Historical Thinking: Summer Institute Blog

Posted: 19/07/2010 1:47:55 PM by JOEL RALPH | with 0 comments

I'm back home from the Benchmarks Summer Institute, and I've been trying to recover... ie. sleep! But of course the domestics always "pile-up" so I started with my front yard flower bed and the over - grown lawn.

My cutting and weeding was interrupted by a friendly comment, "Your garden is really lovely...I used to live in your house!" What else could I do, but invite the couple out of their car and into my home for a tour and history swap. So for an hour I enjoyed stories as we walked from room to room listening to her experiences from 1950, some happy, some surprising and a few tears.

After a week of learning our History Concepts, I dove in with Evidence, Historical Perspective and Continuity and Change. I learnt about how the house had changed, what it was like as a 12 year old in the 50's, and  where she met her husband of 50 years when they worked together at the local grocery store. The highlight was the ghost story. One of the three spinsters who lived on the second floor died in the house while she was making porridge one morning. She heard the "thud", but the other two women, not wanting to disturb the girls, waited until they had left for school before calling the ambulance. So Cool!

I know I've thought of going to see the house where I was born and have my first memories, which makes me  wonder how many other people drive by houses of significance without every going inside. After my experience this morning, I think I have a new field trip planned. Go for it.

p.s. She didn't know anything about the 1927 letter I found in the kitchen cupboards during my rennovation. My history detective will have to continue.

Posted: 12/07/2010 9:33:14 PM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments

Give it to me short, sweet and classroom ready!

Friday of the Benchmarks week was mainly filled with working on our final projects. Or goal was to choose a lesson that we had worked on during the week, expand it  or develop a new lesson that would capture some of the important concepts we had learnt in our five days at the Archives. It was a good thing that we were working in groups so we could fuel each other after a busy week of intensive study. 

The big treat for the evening was a group dinner at the Empire to socialize and eat wonderful food. We were also treated to a sneak peak of a new film about our first Prime Minister, John A. The 10 min."trailer" was not enough for a bunch of history buffs! We wanted more. 

Today, the "show" started, and we all sat back to watch the 7 groups present their history lesson. With the expert help we received all week from Peter Seixas, the presentations were remarkable. There are many times when I have been presented with classroom material, however, it is often too long, complicated or something that would never work in my class. But today we received lesson after lesson of polished and appropriate concepts that I am excited to use. From the "Richard Riot " and the quiet revolution to the forgotten heroes of World War I and the building of the railway, all of the groups did an outstanding job of applying the Historical Thinking Concepts. We also are a "sharing" group so we will receive each others hard work. Hopefully we will be able to up the lessons on the site for anyone who is interested. 

It has been a great week. Luckily modern communication will allow us all to keep in touch, so we can continue to share and learn, and enjoy history.

Posted: 10/07/2010 8:47:43 PM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments
Its a quirky thing hanging out with a group of history teachers.

Usually, when I mention details about Canadian History like the conflict between the HBC and The Northwest Company, the 1837-38 Rebellions or Mackenzie King's immigration policy I get a blank stare or a you are an "egg-head" look. Not so with Canadian History teachers and educators. Instead one receives a nod and a welcome conversation.

After spending time in our working groups, we had an opportunity to listen to two speakers, Debra Pelletier and Chief Stephen Augustine. Both of their talks focused on the vital importance of learning about  the Aboriginal world view, and how essential it is perceive an appropriate perspective on Aboriginal traditions. Debra provided numerous resources to aid us in our learning, and Chief Augustine related to us, his experiences as an expert witness of Mi'kmaq legal traditions during the Donald Marshall Jr. case. Very eye opening.

My visit to the Museum of Civilization was a beautiful connection between this new knowledge and the primary documents and traces of Aboriginal peoples. I was quite overwhelmed and humbled.
Posted: 08/07/2010 3:43:18 PM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments

Another day of discovery in the world of Canadian History.

On tour at Gatineau Preservation Centre

On tour at Gatineau Preservation Centre.

Our morning began with time to work in groups to create a lesson plan based on our trip to the War Museum.

I have spent many hours of my life thus far making lesson plans, and I am sure all educators know the state of starring at a computer screen or a piece of paper, seemingly for hours, hoping for something inspiring to jump out at us. But what an all together different experience to work with like minds where creativity flows into great ideas. The changing role of women in war, comparing recruitment from past and present using WWI poster vs.commercials, and the changing role of war imagery were just some of the treasures that came out of our collaboration to tie war to the concept of Cause and Consequence. I am very much looking forward to Saturday when we will share all of our ideas from the week.

Preservation of delicate documents

Preservation in action.

Our afternoon was spent at the Gatineau Preservation Centre a rare opportunity to see the hidden treasures of  Canada. The building was most impressive - I think Sandi described it best..."A cross between IKEA and a grain bin". How Canadian to be so multi-architectural. [Ed. note: Click here to see the lobby.]

We were able to watch preservationists at work repairing a map from the 1700s, thousands of boxes of archival material keeping safe for future reference and of course the vault housing some of the most famous and infamous portraits and paintings of significance to the Canadian identity, Frances Anne Hopkins and all!



Posted: 07/07/2010 10:22:06 PM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments
Soldier's uniform and gas mask

What happens when you ask a room full of Canadian History teachers to list the top 5 significant events in our history? They discuss...then they cheat!

We were asked to complete this task today in an effort to establish a criteria for one of the most difficult parts of teaching history, that is, deciding what parts of Canadian History to teach. Along with debating the merits of essential topics, we also critiqued Peter Seixas' article, "What Is Historical Consciousness?" This is a worthy exercise, especially when one has the author in the room.

Sorry about the hot seat Peter!

In addition to the flurry of debating, we were also privileged to view a number of lithographs from the Winkworth collection. These primary traces focus on the early immigrant experience in Canada of which the Archives has several thousand. These pictures were an excellent starting point to begin the topic of Continuity and Change. Immigration continues of be a vital part of our country, and great way to look into the similarities and difference of the immigrant experience.

Shoe from Canadian War Museum Camouflage Exhibit

After a fantastic lunch, we braved the weather and made the 20 min. journey to the Canadian War Museum. It feels funny saying that in July, coming from a Winnipeger, but high temperatures and humidity continue to dog us and we were again truly grateful for an air-conditioned venue.

The Canadian War Museum is an outstanding collection of Canada's military past and present. As with most great museums, it was difficult to take it all in. The special exhibition on "Camouflage" was a highlight for me, as was the coat of Sir Issac Brock. (It has the bullet hole in it!) There are 4 main galleries covering pre-contact war to 1885, Crown and Country, 1885 - 1931, WWI & WWII and finally, "A Violent Peace" covering the Cold War, peacekeeping and recent conflicts. A "must see" museum if you are ever in Ottawa.

Posted: 06/07/2010 8:55:42 PM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments

Let's just say, the fact that the Library and Archives of Canada is air conditioned is a blessing. With temperatures of 30+ I could have hung out with primary documents all day.

Participant at Benchmarks' Summer InstituteSo, the Benchmarks of Historical Thinking Summer Institute has started well. There are about 30 participants from all over Canada, Newfoundland to British Columbia and everywhere in between. The range of educational occupations are also impressive; there are elementary and secondary teachers, university professors, curriculum consultants, museum directors, archivists and Parks Canada representatives. The diversity provides for great discussion and a wealth of ideas.

Library Archives Canada primary sources

After an overview of the Historical Thinking Concepts, our day focused on the use of primary documents. The highlight was looking through WWI military records and service files, many of which participants had requested specifically because they came from their local area. We also had a explanation of the purpose and importance of the Archives and many of the features for teachers on their website. It contains a wealth of primary documents, lesson plans and information that teachers can easily access. Here's the website:

Tomorrow is the Canadian War Museum visit. Can't wait!

Posted: 05/07/2010 8:24:03 PM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments
Before I head off to Ottawa on Sunday, my family has planned a trip to Edmonton. This road trip has given me considerable time, a few distractions,(I saw a beautiful coyote trotting through a wheat field) to continue with my readings.

I finished:

"'They Thought the World Was Flat?' Applying the Principles of How People Learn in Teaching High School History", by Robert B. Bain

I was well worth the read. The main gist of the chapter is strategies of how to teach students to critically analyze historical text, and in so doing, differentiate between "history-as-event" and "history-as-account". Although the main example Bain uses deals with Christopher Columbus, the principle of encouraging teachers to  press their students to "document their understanding, and to explain the evidence they are using to draw conclusions or to accept one historical account over another" (p.194) are adaptable to content in any history classroom. He has a number of suggested classroom activities and great questions to create meaningful discussion.

So far all of the readings have been interesting and valuable.

Bye for now... off shopping!

Posted: 01/07/2010 7:37:29 PM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments
I'm Jennifer Janzen. I am a teacher at the UofW Collegiate in Winnipeg and have been teaching Canadian History and Geography here for 11 years. At the moment I'm preparing for a Summer Institute on Historical Thinking in Ottawa. I will be posting blog entries before, during and after my 6 days in our country's capital. I don't have a lot of time right now, since I have numerous articles to read and journal on before I arrive - I have homework and school is over! 
Posted: 30/06/2010 10:46:51 AM by JENNIFER JANZEN | with 0 comments

Jennifer Janzen

A live blog from the Benchmarks of Historical Thinking Summer Institute written by University of Winnipeg Collegiate educator Jennifer Janzen.

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