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Caitlin Johnson, Graduate Student at Saint Mary's University, blogs about her experiences at Imagining Gateways.

Overall I believe the event I was most impressed with during the three day “Imagining Gateways” conference was the evening at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, spent with stories and songs by Ben Caplan, and some of the most inspiring individuals from the PANS. Their genuine passion for the collections held within the walls of the archives really hit home with me, and as a researcher AND an educator I was enthralled with how many resources are available to teachers through the PANS website — that’s before even walking in the doors!

“Imagining Gateways” truly was an appropriate title for this conference. I believe there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, especially in hooking teachers’ interests when it comes to using the institutions that hold our provincial and national history that are readily at their use. As I walk the line between both research and teacher, I am very glad to see that there are people out there trying to make these “gateways” for schools and historical institutions to utilize one another’s assets.

Do you have any suggestions for how to create new “gateways” to enhance teacher’s use of museums, historians, and archives? Have you been using these resources in your classrooms?

- Caitlin Johnson, Graduate Student at Saint Mary's University

Posted: 07/11/2011 3:58:44 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Caitlin Johnson, Graduate Student at Saint Mary's University, blogs about her experiences at Imagining Gateways.

The Nova Scotia Social Studies Teacher’s Association (NSSSTA) sessions held at Lockview High School in Fall River on Friday were also very intriguing. I attended the sessions by the Historica-Dominion Institute, and the THEN/HiER panel discussion on “Do History Teachers and Historians Talk? Should They?”

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation by the Historica-Dominion Institute, which was about much more than the Historica minutes that they are well known for. The ladies of Historica provided the group with information on the vast amount of educational programs they have and are promoting, such as Sir John A. Day (where the teacher holds a birthday party for our first prime minister!), and My Parks Pass — a year long pass to all the national historic sites and parks in CANADA that are given to every grade eight student in the country. This literally blew my mind, what a great way to teach your students using hands-on, experiential learning!

The THEN/HiER panel session held great promise but I was left thinking, “Where are the teachers that should be here listening to this great discussion?” There were a handful of people in the session, of which perhaps three were teachers, and the rest academics, archivists or museum professionals. The potential for collaboration between these groups is obviously immense; it is just a matter of bridging the gap between them. “The students you have today, are mine tomorrow,” a very important statement made by Dr. James Morrison, that many teachers and academics seem to forget. I believe that the panel discussion was very well done and well received by those of us in attendance, however I was left wishing we had more time to continue our discussion.

- Caitlin Johnson, Graduate Student at Saint Mary's University

Posted: 07/11/2011 3:55:03 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Caitlin Johnson, Graduate Student at Saint Mary's University, blogs about her experiences at Imagining Gateways.

The Thursday evening event held at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia (or the PANS to us locals) was great. There were few attendees, over a dozen, but the information relayed to us through the archivists was really superb. A colleague of mine was commenting on how exciting it was to see the archives produce excellent and relevant documents for educational use in comparison with what is available through the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

Archivists ‘Barry & Gary’ as we came to know them, were extremely knowledgeable (as to be expected), but were also so enthusiastic when it came to educational resources that the PANS could offer to teachers, and were adamant that teachers become more involved with the PANS. Both discussed different ways that students could use the archives in the classroom, from using historical pictures (as the archives holds over 100,000), and using relevant Nova Scotian history (such as Helen Creighton’s personal fonds).

I was ecstatic to see so much desire to work with schools, which is what the conference was all about- joining institutions such as archives and museums with schools to work together. Not to sound too corny, but archives really can be used as “gateways” to top-notch primary source documents!

- Caitlin Johnson, Graduate Student at Saint Mary's University

Posted: 07/11/2011 3:51:59 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Stephanie Power, B.Ed Student, MSVU & Research Assistant at Pier 21, blogs about her experiences at Imagining Gateways.

Pier 21 has the unofficial slogan of being the Gateway to Canada. It wasn’t the only port of immigration—a detail sometimes overlooked, but the museum is a gateway to Canada and is the only one of its kind. Pier 21’s resident historian, Steve Schwinghamer, showed that during his tour of the museum on Friday.

Everything in the museum can be linked to immigration and the peopling of Canada. That covers some obvious outcomes sprinkled among all levels of the Nova Scotia curriculum (and most likely that of other Canadian province’s). There are others though, buried beneath the surface. Sometimes you need to know the museum to see them, sometimes you have to be creative. Sometimes you have to be really hopeful.

The museum houses photographs, primary documents, first hand accounts of immigration and military service, artefacts and multiple interpretation of what is was like to be foreign, an immigrant, a soldier and a Canadian. Pier 21 makes connection between themes like war, cultural identity, social justice, social injustice, government decisions and its effects, technology, human rights, and gender identity. You may need to get creative, but Pier 21 offers a tangible way to link abstract concepts to not just real events, but real people.

- Stephanie Power, B.Ed Student, MSVU & Research Assistant at Pier 21.

Posted: 01/11/2011 5:07:55 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Stephanie Power, B.Ed Student, MSVU & Research Assistant at Pier 21, blogs about her experiences at Imagining Gateways.

A common thread throughout the conference was that museums are this great resource (and source of resources) and yet in the big picture, they seem rarely used by teachers. From listening to museum staff in charge of education programs and teacher outreach, resource guides and workshops, I came to understand something: they think we know what they have and simply don’t want to use them. There is a split between teachers and museums and it is not for the lack of the museums trying, it is because they deal with the middle man.

The middle man can be anyone between the museum and the teacher in the classroom. It can be the department of education, those working on curriculum guides, the individual school board administrators, or the principals of the school. Somehow the information is hitting a dam.

One of the museum staff spoke on Thursday and explained how she had developed a set of lesson plans complete with resources and ideas and activities. She explained that she knew not everyone would want to use her lesson plan but she had thought the ideas were worthwhile and innovative. She sent it to someone and he was supposed to send it in a downwards trickle until it reached the classroom teacher. As a student teacher, I can tell you that lots of times I have learned of resources from guest speakers or professors and when I mention them to my cooperating teachers, they have no idea that what I am talking about existed.

When I have assignments due for school or I am planning my own lessons for practicum, I comb through websites because everything is new to me and I don’t know what is out there. Teachers who have been in the field for years may not search for new things, and if no one tells them—if it gets lost between the resource creator and the distributor—then they never know the difference. Student teachers share everything we find and we comb through everything offered to us. Then we take it to our practicum placements. My suggestion would be to cut out the middle man. Send your resources to the department heads of individual schools, to classroom teachers, and to student teachers.

- Stephanie Power, B.Ed Student, MSVU & Research Assistant at Pier 21

Posted: 01/11/2011 5:04:51 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Stephanie Power, B.Ed Student, MSVU & Research Assistant at Pier 21, blogs about her experiences at Imagining Gateways.

As a research assistant in the Scotiabank Research Center at Pier 21, I frequently deal with the public’s inquiries about immigration and the arrivals of families to Canada. The problem for us is that Canadian immigration records in our databases only begin in 1865. When we have customers inquiring about records earlier than that, and they are from Nova Scotia, we print them a map and send them to the Nova Scotia Archive. Until the opening night of the conference, I wasn’t aware of how much help the archive may actually be to not only our customers, but to the research center and to me.

I spent some time on Friday morning exploring the website for the NS Archive and I was startled by how much is on there not only for Nova Scotian history but for Canadian history. The archive has collections that are entangled with probably all of the collections and resources held by museums in the province. As a student teacher, I immediately started thinking about unit plans and outcomes and projects. I also found things linked to Pier 21.

If asked what the most important aspect of the archive’s presentation and discussion was, I would say their views on copyright. The copyright laws are always changing and the scope of what we can ethically allow students to use is narrowing, but the archive is making that easier by making educators aware that everything online is available for use by the public, and everything held in the building is available for copy. The best thing though? Students and researchers can photograph up to 15 images before the archive staff will charge for copies. Projects suddenly have a new range of possibility within the classroom.

- Stephanie Power, B.Ed Student, MSVU & Research Assistant at Pier 21

Posted: 01/11/2011 4:57:18 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Guest Blog

Conference Blog from the Imagining Gateways Conference in Halifax, held October 27-29, 2011.

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