History Education: Remembrance Day

There was a great segment on CBC’s Morning North today.  It focused on Canadian teachers who visited France this past summer to visit WWI and WWII battlefields as a means of learning more about the Wars, soldier experience and historical landscape.  The idea being that this experiential learning trip would provide the teachers with better tools to teach their students about the World Wars. This particular program is run by the Juno Beach Centre, which offers a number of different education programs focusing on tangible history and remembrance.

The CBC segment highlighted the teachers experience making gravestone rubbings, collecting rocks and dirt and taking many videos and photographs of the landscape.  All of these collected items have the potential to illuminate a segment of the past beyond what is written in a textbook.  For example, one teacher spoke of collecting rocks from the beach at Dieppe to help explain why the assault was such a huge failure.  The rocks on the beach have been smoothed by the ocean, making it impossible for soldiers and vehicles to gain traction on.  By bringing back rocks from Dieppe students are able to touch and actually see what the landscape would have been like for solders. 

Using physical objects to explore the past helps explain history beyond textbooks and make it increasingly tangible to students.  Additionally, the days leading up to Remembrance Day provide a time that many teachers utilize to introduce students to Canada’s involvement in the World Wars.  Personally, other than making poppy wreaths out of construction paper and memorizing In Flanders Fields I don’t really remember learning all that much about Remembrance Day or being taught the context behind the day.  I’m sure it was included somewhere, but the method of instruction clearly wasn’t memorable.

For those people looking for instruction ideas, Veterans Affairs has a number of great resources and guides to focused on Canadian war efforts.  Canada’s History Society also has a number of lesson plans that focus on Canada’s role during wartime.