I recently facilitated a workshop on Archives and the TRC as part of Huron History Day: An Active History Pre-Conference for High School and First Year Students.
The workshop focused on the history of residential schools, the unique challenges of residential school archives, the TRC, and reconciliation more broadly. When planning this workshop I was a bit worried about the range of backgrounds that might be attending and how to include survivor experiences.
Typically when working with high school students at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre I have invited a survivor into the archive or classroom and students learn through their discussion with the survivor. In the case of this workshop the time constraint and location meant this wasn’t possible.
This ended up being a blessing in disguise. It caused me to think critically about engagement and turn to other great educational resources. I modified and incorporated two of the activities from the 100 Years of Loss edu-kit created by the Legacy of Hope Foundation and drew on Project of Heart resources.
One of the activities I modified from the edu-kit focused on examining the before/after photographs of Thomas Moore. I used a different set of before and after photographs but employed the same type of questions to the workshop participants. Questions about identify, why the photographs were taken, and the impact of residential schools on culture all sparked meaningful discussion. This simple activity worked really well to introduce the topic of residential schools in an engaging manner.
I also incorporated an activity that allowed students to read a first-hand survivor statement about their experience in residential school. This activity brought home the importance of incorporating survivor experiences into the archival record and highlighted the impact of residential schools on individuals, communities, and all of Canada. Allowing students to speak about what they read in small groups and then as a larger group allowed for a range of participation and discussion.
I closed the workshop with a discussion of the Project of Heart and we debriefed while students decorated wooden tiles in memory of a residential school student. This artistic activity allowed me some time to interact with the participants on an individual level and check in on the feelings of the group. There were also a handful of teachers participating in the workshop and this activity served as an introduction into the Project of Heart and allowed me to invite them to engage their classes in the POH initiative.
Overall I was very please with how the workshop went. A short workshop is by no means long enough to cover residential schools in depth. But I feel as though participants left with a deeper understanding of the legacy of residential schools and many of them left with a desire to learn and do more.