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Teaching the Past: A Blog about Teaching History in Canada

Please note: THEN/HiER will evaluate member-generated materials for clarity, grammar, structure, style, and appropriateness. Blogs reflect the opinions of the authors/contributors and do not necessarily express the views of THEN/HiER.

The Toll of War: tensions at the intersection of remembrance and history

Posted by Katherine Ireland
31 March 2016 - 10:08am

The Toll of War project, which received  $488,155 in federal funding in 2015, was a joint venture between The Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), and the Saint John River society. The aim of the project is to leverage Canadian public and media attention surrounding the First World War centenary and the 75th Anniversary of the Second World War to raise awareness about the nation’s participation in both events. The two-part project consists of a commemorative bannering campaign recognizing Victoria Cross recipients chosen to represent every province and most major Canadian wartime contributions overseas from 1914 to 1945.  The second part involved developing education materials so that VC winners featured on the banners might become gateways for students and teachers to dig deeper into Canadian history.

Trench Warfare

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
30 March 2016 - 9:08am

It’s 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and both my students and I know what is coming! Having explained today’s activity in yesterday’s class, the students prepare for the ‘worst experience’ one must endure. As I prepped my rambunctious class for ‘Life in the Trenches’ I hoped this activity would be everything I wished it to be!

What were their tasks and my objectives? To recreate life in the trenches! Trench warfare! All or Nothing! Everything was planned and ready to go!

The desks acted as trenches in which students had to stay low, the lights would flicker to illuminate the environmental conditions that the soldiers faced, and ‘rationed’ Melba toast was provided to mimic food supply. All the while, mock paper bombs were thrown into the trenches and a ‘no-mans-land’ was created out of a makeshift jumble of desks.

Recognizing THEN/HiER

Posted by Scott Pollock
28 March 2016 - 6:27am

By Tom Peace

I first encountered the History Education Network (THEN/HiER) in late 2009, when Jennifer Bonnell, the graduate student coordinator at the time, approached Active History about the potential for coordinating a workshop series in Toronto focused on teaching history. Over the intervening months we worked together towards the first in a series of events that brought together teachers, curators, professors and civil servants known as Approaching the Past. This was the beginning of a six-year partnership between Active History and THEN/HiER. At the end of the month, THEN/HiER’s mandate will draw to a close. I want to use this post to draw attention to our collaboration, some of its key moments, and the influence that Anne Marie Goodfellow, Jennifer Bonnell, Penney Clark and many others have had on and the Active History project more generally.

Three Cheers for THEN/HiER

Posted by Scott Pollock
16 March 2016 - 9:43am

As I am sure many readers of this blog are aware THEN/HiER’s funding and mandate are coming to an end. The final THEN/HiER board meeting was held last week (March 11th) and as the many tweets from the meeting show, it was an impressive gathering. While I am very hopefully that the initiatives begun by THEN/HiER will continue, I do think that this is an appropriate moment to reflect upon the many achievements of this community.

New Directions in Active History and the Consulting Historian

Posted by Scott Pollock
5 February 2016 - 9:21am

In early October, a group of active historians met in London, Ontario, to discuss the future of their project. Active history seeks to strengthen the connection between the past and the present, often intervening in contemporary policy and cultural debates. This fall’s conference at Huron University College, co-sponsored by the National Council on Public History, was the second in-person meeting of the many practitioners associated with the popular Active History group blog. Delegates came from a variety of historical disciplines, including archivists, actors, artists, civil servants, curators, graduate students, high school teachers, history journalists, and university professors.

New Directions in Public History

Posted by Scott Pollock
5 February 2016 - 9:08am

This blog originally appeared on on November 9th, 2015

By Kaleigh Bradley

What is public history? I remember being asked this question on my first day in the “Intro to Public History” M.A. seminar at Carleton University. I knew why I wanted to study Public History (please give me a job in history?), but I found myself struggling to define it on the spot. I quickly learned that public history is not just doing history for the public outside of academia, although this is part of what it is.

New Directions in Active History, London, 2-4 October 2015

Posted by Scott Pollock
5 February 2016 - 8:58am

This blog originally appeared on on October 4th, 2015

The majority of attendees of this conference are researchers and academics from history departments across Canada, but there were also a handful of archivists and I would encourage other archivists to attend in the future if you get a chance. It’s fascinating to catch up with trends in historical research and in work on the engagement of the public with history.

This post is a quick summary of some of the things that jumped out at me as interesting in the past two days of discussions. I always think that conferences with parallel sessions are a bit like a ‘Choose your own Adventure’ game: we are all at the same conference, but we pick our own path through it and all end up with a slightly different experience at the end.

Book Review: Family Ties by Andrea Terry (or More on the Challenges of Teaching with Museums)

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
15 February 2016 - 1:32pm

There’s something about the experience of a Victorian Christmas that makes many of us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Our sense of nostalgia seems heightened by the festive season. Because of this, perhaps we’re more prone to let down our critical lens on the past, and simply enjoy the visual candy. Surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the season, we encounter compelling evidence to suggest that we can truly experience the past for real… as it once was.

The Truth in Literature

Posted by Chris Pedersen
11 February 2016 - 7:03pm

In an interview with Shusha Guppy (2000) (writing for the Paris Review[1]), British author Julien Barnes was asked, “Sartre wrote an essay called ‘Qu’est-ce que la littérature?’ What is literature for you?”) Barnes response was: “The shortest is that it’s the best way of telling the truth; it’s a process of producing grand, beautiful, well-ordered lies that tell more truth than any assemblage of facts” (p. 1). When asked to elaborate on his definition of truth, and and the place of literature in the study of the past, Barnes (2000) stated:

New Directions in Active History: A Retrospective

Posted by Scott Pollock
5 February 2016 - 7:56am

By Beth A. Robertson, Ph.D 

Exploring New Directions in Active History

Posted by Thomas Peace
5 February 2016 - 7:43am

This blog originally appeared on on September 28th, 2015

By: Tom Peace & Daniel Ross

Seven years in, it’s time to take stock of the Active History project. Since our founding symposium in 2008, Active History has branched off in a number of directions. Those include–but are not limited to–an annual lecture series (History Matters), a long-running podcast (History Slam), and a working group within the Canadian Historical Association. And then there is the website. Today, is home to well over 1,000 blog posts, papers, podcasts, and videos, and more and more people (between 20,000 – 25,000) are reading them every month. Not bad for a wordpress site run by a small group of volunteers.

Towards an Active History

Posted by Thomas Peace
5 February 2016 - 7:31am

This Blog first appeared on on October 27th, 2014.

By Thomas Peace

Over the past couple of weeks, the Active History editorial collective has begun the initial planning for a stand-alone conference to be held in late 2015 or 2016. Agreed that there was a need for a conference, we set about to determine the conference’s overall purpose and goals. What quickly became apparent was that we had slightly divergent views about the meaning and practice of Active History. As our conversation continued (and moved toward fruitful resolution), it occurred to me that these varied perspectives might be of interest to the broader readership of and, through the comments section, provide a good opportunity to hear about your thoughts: What is Active History?

Understanding History Teaching: Teaching and Learning about the Past in Secondary Schools by Chris Husbands, Alison Kitson and Anna Pendry

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
25 January 2016 - 1:46pm

Angelica Radjenovic

January 25, 2016


Do you ever wonder: Why do we teach and learn about the past? How is history taught in the classroom? How can teachers influence the way in which students learn about the past? These are just some questions that I feel Understanding History Teaching: Teaching and Learning about the Past in Secondary Schools by Chris Husbands, Alison Kitson and Anna Pendry successfully answer in regards to British History.

What Kind of Citizen?

Posted by Scott Pollock
22 January 2016 - 9:16am

Chatting with colleagues over the recent holidays (which already feel like they were long ago) I was often asked what I have been reading. While this often led to a discussion of an eclectic range of books, one which seemed to attract the attention of many educators was Joel Westheimer’s (2015) What Kind of Citizen? Educating Our Children for the Common Good.

Westheimer begins the book with a discussion of the dangers of standardized testing and teacher de-professionalization. This well written and pithy section reminds its reader that a focus on testing and accountability narrows the curriculum as “what gets tested gets taught”. Westheimer, rightfully, criticizes this approach by arguing that this narrow conception of education fails to prepare students in democracies for their role as citizens.

Where are they now? Update on the whereabouts of Lindsay S. Gibson

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
8 December 2015 - 2:11pm

Where are they now? The whereabouts of Lindsay S. Gibson

In June 2014 I completed my PhD at the University of British Columbia thanks to the exemplary support and mentorship provided by the members of my supervisory committee, Peter Seixas, Penney Clark and Kadriye Ercikan. My dissertation entitled “Understanding Ethical Judgments in Secondary School History Classes”[1] focused on history teachers‘ beliefs about ethical judgments in the discipline of history and history education, the factors that influence their beliefs, and the relationship between teachers' approaches to ethical issues, questions, and judgments and their students' approaches to ethical judgments.

Where are they now? Heather E. McGregor and history education at uOttawa

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
8 December 2015 - 2:09pm

My study of history and education has taken me from coast to coast to coast across this country, and a few places in between. With the immense support of my supervisory committee, Penney Clark, Peter Seixas and Michael Marker, I completed my PhD entitled Decolonizing the Nunavut School System: Stories in a River of Time, at the University of British Columbia in March 2015. I also spent the last year of my studies in the role of graduate student coordinator for the anglophone students affiliated with THEN/HiER, following several years of involvement on the committee.

The Challenges of Teaching with Museums

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
17 December 2015 - 2:07pm

Did you know that there are more than 1,500 museums in Canada?  Museums encompass many disciplines of study, including history, science, nature, and the arts.  Their collections range from tangible objects to intangible ideas, and their methods of presentation range from static displays to participatory environments.

From a pedagogical point of view, museums present rich learning environments, where constructed narratives are communicated through the use of sight, sound, touch, smell, and emotion.  Within such narrative constructs, as Trofanenko and Segall (2014) have pointed out, pedagogy is often positioned “to assume particular assumptions, perspectives, and views about the world and its people” (p. 1).  In this sense, while museums can provide powerful sites for learning, they can also be exclusionary and restrictive.

They’re Gr-r-r-eat! Cereal Box as Serial Docs

Posted by Koral LaVorgna
7 December 2015 - 9:14am

Can you get enough of that Sugar Crisp? Does the crunch always give you away? And are Trix just for kids? Cereal slogans have become embedded in popular culture, and even satirized in television shows, most notably The Simpsons. Such slogans were made memorable at the time by the cereal mascots which voiced them in animated television commercials. However, these slogans were also often splashed across cereal boxes. Lucky the Leprechaun has been promising that his cereal is magically delicious since 1964 (except for a brief period in the 1970s when Lucky was replaced by Marvin the Wizard), and this slogan can still be found emblazoned somewhere on the packaging. Some of these slogans, however, have changed over time. Toucan Sam originally spoke the name of his cereal in “code” using Pig Latin.

Is a Little Knowledge a Dangerous Thing? Young People, National Narratives and History Education

Posted by Raphaël Gani
26 November 2015 - 10:07am

Professor Jocelyn Létourneau, Department of History, Laval University

Dr Arthur Chapman, UCL IoE

Anxieties about national identity and its strengthening and preservation are common in countries around the world, and it is, of course, entirely natural that this should be so in times of great change, challenge and uncertainty.

Identity: A Useful Category for Historical Analysis

Posted by Scott Pollock
25 November 2015 - 1:19pm

Over the past several months I have been investigating the process through which Ontario’s Ministry of Education developed their revised Canadian and World Studies curriculum.  This research, which is on going, has led to many interesting findings, one of which I would like to focus on here, in the hope that others will find it interesting (and hopefully respond to my developing ideas).

Where are they now? An Update from Eric G. Poitras.

Posted by Eric Poitras
19 November 2015 - 8:23am

Eric G. Poitras, Assistant Professor of Instructional Design and Educational Technology at the University of Utah

The research led by members of the Advanced Instructional Systems and Technologies (ASSIST) laboratory in augmented reality aims to examine the impact of mobile and wearable devices towards learning and engagement in the context of guided walking tours. Museum exhibits and cultural heritage sites offer a wealth of information useful to teachers in PreK-12 classrooms, but the educational potential of these resources is often limited to schools located in the immediate surrounding area. Recent advances in online virtual displays (e.g., Google Earth and Microsoft Photosynth) breaks down traditional barriers to instruction, enabling students to experience these distant locations on the web.

Student Narratives and Public Memory in Museums

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
16 November 2015 - 9:46pm


I would like to draw your attention to a history education symposium coming up on December 1 in London (England) at the Institute of Education. This seminar series brings together three international scholars to explore what young people know about the past and their sources of knowledge.

Dr. Jocelyn Letourneau, of Laval University (Quebec), will discuss a pragmatic approach to teaching history, intended to move students  “outside the thinkable they’ve been accustomed to in living in a particular society and being subject to its broad representations.”

What is a purpose of history education? (Pedersen)

Posted by Chris Pedersen
3 November 2015 - 11:03am

What is the purpose of history education? I concede there are many. However, I want to explicate a single, necessary line of thought in reference to student and teacher experiences in the history classroom. History education requires a parallel to modernist thinking on education as a reduction of épistème (theoretical knowledge) and phronesis (moral knowledge) to techne (skills/knowledge for production). Rather than the exertion of autocratic rule over education; people should embrace education as a process that happens to the human enterprise; not as a process that is consciously achieved within human culture, but as a process that achieves culture.

What is the Purpose of History Education? (Radjenovic)

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
27 October 2015 - 12:27pm

What is the purpose of history education? The recounting of history is multidimensional and complex as history education has been a contentious subject since the creation of public schooling. Clark (2011) argues, history debates have shown to “disappear only to reappear over the way” (p. 1) and will not be going away anytime soon!

Memory After Belsen

Posted by Scott Pollock
21 October 2015 - 1:49pm

Teaching about the Holocaust is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging, and important, tasks facing a World History teacher.  Every year as I approach the teaching of the Holocaust I must consider how to convey to my students the horrors that occurred, how to explain the long-term and short-term causes of the Holocaust, and how to discuss the consequences and continued significance of this horrific episode in world history.

Thankfully there are many resources that World History teachers can make use of, including a wide range of primary documents, oral histories, and films.  I recently had an opportunity to preview a new documentary “Memory After Belsen,” which fills a void in the existing mass of resources.

Thoughts that emerged after this year's Historical Thinking Summer Institute, Vancouver, BC July 6-11

Posted by Anonymous
7 October 2015 - 2:44pm

by Alim Fakirani

Note: this post originally appeared on the author's web site at
It is reproduced here with the author's permission.

I recently attended the Historical Thinking Summer Institute (HTSI) hosted by UBC and facilitated by Dr. Peter Seixas. This was an opportunity for educators, researchers, university lecturers, and others including museum staff interested in the topic of historical thinking to further develop their awareness around a very important aspect of History education. The conference focused on “The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts” elucidated by Dr. Seixas in his book. The 6 historical thinking concepts include:

Maître à penser in the history classroom

Posted by Chris Pedersen
1 October 2015 - 4:17pm

To understand the history teacher, it is important to account for the dynamic, inheritable, tradition upon which the educative role of the teacher is predicated. My aim is not an explication of the teacher’s traditionary role in education; nor will I critique this tradition. Rather, I will destroy these traditions in a positive manner.  Heidegger states that destruction "is not a break with history, no repudiation of history, but is an appropriation [Aneignung] and transformation [Verwandlung] of what has been handed down to us…Destruction means—to open our ears, to make ourselves free for what speaks to us in tradition.” (Heidegger, p. 71–73 in Gallagher, p. 86). How can we appropriate and transform the traditional role of the history teacher?

Citizenship Education

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
1 October 2015 - 1:01pm

            This summer I had time to think about something new that I plan to do with my students this year. I am dedicated to engage students to discover the nation’s past by fusing the concepts of historical consciousness and citizenship education.  While searching for resources to assist in this task I discovered a variety of interactive lesson plans published by “Canada’s History.” This website provides many useful lessons and brings together the experiences of teachers and students in history classrooms.

Margaret MacMillan Launches the 2015 CBC Massey Lectures

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
29 September 2015 - 7:21am

What makes good leaders? This was the question that framed Margaret MacMillan’s opening lecture in the 2015 CBC Massey Tour, which commenced last week in Fredericton. It was the first in a series, including St. John’s, as well as upcoming lectures in Victoria (September 30), Calgary (October 2) and Toronto (October 7). During each presentation, MacMillan draws from her recent publication History’s People: Personalities and the Past (2015), to explore the qualities (both positive and negative) of individuals who have shaped the world in which we live.

In this first lecture, Dr. MacMillan focussed upon leadership and the art of persuasion. Drawing from the examples of Otto von Bismarck, as well as William Lyon MacKenzie King, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, MacMillan laid out an interesting argument for “good leadership.” Good leadership, MacMillan explained, demonstrates four key characteristics:

1.    Timing and opportunity;

Assessing Historical Thinking

Posted by Scott Pollock
17 September 2015 - 8:01am

Late this summer, as I began to prepare for another year of teaching grades 10, 11 and 12 history, I sat down and set many goals for myself. One of them was to do a better job of assessing my students’ historical thinking skills.  I am not sure when, where or why I became interested in assessment.  I do know that when I attended teacher’s college assessment was rarely discussed and when I first started teaching it was usually the last thing I thought about (not surprising it was also something I did a very poor job of).

There are, of course, many reasons why assessment does not figure highly in the mind of a new teacher, who is struggling with (seemingly) more pressing issues such as classroom management and what to teach next period.  I suspect, however, that one of the reasons I paid so little attention to assessment early in my career is that I simply did not understand what assessment was.

This was likely because assessment can occur for many reasons, can take many forms, and can serve many purposes. So for example, an assessment can:

Misconceptions of teaching history in a B.Ed program

Posted by David Bussell
14 September 2015 - 1:32pm

Misconceptions of teaching history in a B.Ed program

Linking this blog to our monthly theme of something I learned over the summer that changed my understanding of history, I have been thinking more and more about a question a colleague asked me regarding the misconceptions that surround teaching history. Due to the recent changes in Ontario, B.Ed programs are now two years and all faculties of education have had to make alterations to their B.Ed programs. A colleague of mine who is teaching the first part of the B.Ed history course to incoming B.Ed students wanted me to give her a brief overview of the main misconceptions teacher candidates have towards teaching history. This got me thinking about how future history teachers believe history should be taught to their future students.

An Update from Jennifer Bonnell

Posted by Jennifer Bonnell
31 August 2015 - 8:47pm

Blog post for THEN/HiER

Jennifer Bonnell

31 August 2015

When Scott Pollock of the THEN/HiER graduate student committee wrote to me this spring asking me to write on “what I’ve been up to since completing my dissertation,” my response was, “um, can I get back to you on that?” I was in the final months of a two-year appointment in Canadian History at McMaster, and “what next” questions were foremost in my mind. It wasn’t the right moment, suffice it to say, to write a reflective post on my years post-dissertation and where they had led me.

Learning Over Teaching: Being a History Education Strategist

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
26 August 2015 - 3:24pm

Learning Over Teaching: Being a History Education Strategist

In 2012, I was fortunate to start a new position at the Archives of Ontario as their Senior Coordinator of Educational Programming and Exhibitions the same day I handed in my final draft of my dissertation before defense. The job was perfect for me, and obviously ideal timing. In this role, I restrategized the Archives of Ontario’s Education Programme and developed a long-term strategy for their Exhibitions Programme. I could draw on my skills, experiences, and expertise, while also collaborating with colleagues and building off institutional successes. This work was very fruitful.

“Right Place, Right Time”?: Six Tips for Landing a Museum Job after Your Grad Degree That Really Work

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
19 August 2015 - 3:50pm

Last fall I successfully defended by doctoral thesis, got married and moved across the continent—all within a matter of weeks. I’m happy to report that America has been quite kind to me: I now have an intimate knowledge of the vagaries of the Los Angeles Metro system, call myself a permanent resident and can differentiate a coyote from a lost dog at 50 paces. Because there was a considerable lag between my arrival and my residency card, I took the opportunity to speak at a few conferences this year: one on inclusive museums (, Trent University’s Contesting Canada ( and UBC’s Society for the History of Children and Youth conference (

Grad Student Committee Update: Catching up with Rose Fine-Meyer

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
19 August 2015 - 1:14pm

Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer

Since graduating with my PhD in 2012, I have continued to write and research in the area of history/social studies education in Canada, specifically in Ontario, which explores the relationships between provincially sanctioned curricula, teacher pedagogical practices, and place-based learning experiences, both in the past and in the present. I have also been teaching in the Master of Teaching program at OISE/University of Toronto.

In Defence of Disciplines: A Brief Review

Posted by Scott Pollock
23 July 2015 - 11:22am

In Defense of Disciplines: A Brief Review

Interdisciplinarity is a hot topic of discussion at many Universities, Colleges, and academic conferences (for example, the most recent Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences). While this subject has led to much debate there have been few empirical investigations of interdisciplinarity.  Jerry A. Jacobs’ (2013) In Defense of Disciplines begins to fill this gap and opens up many new avenues for research, debate, and discussion.

British Columbia’s Contact Zone Classrooms, 1849–1925

Posted by Sean Carleton
12 June 2015 - 1:05pm

N.B. This blog originally appeared on

By Sean Carleton

Finding Franklin: New Approaches to Teaching Canadian History Symposium Day Two

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
12 June 2015 - 7:19am

Finding Franklin: New Approaches to Teaching Canadian History Symposium                       

Ottawa, Ontario-Thursday June 4 and Friday 5, 2015

Second blog: Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer

Day Two.

Finding Franklin Symposium

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
8 June 2015 - 1:31pm

Finding Franklin: New Approaches to Teaching Canadian History Symposium Ottawa, Ontario: Thursday June 4 and Friday 5, 2015

* Two Day Symposium, two blogs by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer

Day One: Blog One

We began the first day of the “Finding Franklin: New Approaches to Teaching Canadian History Symposium” in Ottawa at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Organized by John Lutz and Merna Forster, the event celebrated the launch of the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History (GUMICH) 13th mystery, “The Franklin Mystery: Life and Death in the Arctic” website.

The gap between the present and the past — Historical distance and history education Part III

Posted by Chris Pedersen
1 June 2015 - 6:50pm


Part I and II of this series was an explication of the temporal conception of historical distance. I discussed a variety of prominent historians' thinking on the temporal conception of historical distance. I also analyzed the work of Phillips (2013) and Zelenák (2011) to detail the various implications and traits that increase or decrease temporal distance in historical texts or a reader's mind.

Part III represents my embarkation on an adventure of thinking around historical distance and its place in history education.

First, I wish to discuss historical distance in relation to schooling. Distance could be taught to students using methods familiar to history teachers. Students would be introduced to the term and through a series of lessons which necessarily involve scaffolding, slowly start to develop a complex understanding of the term and its place in the academic fields of history and philosophy.

A gap between the present and the past? — Historical distance and history education part II

Posted by Chris Pedersen
12 May 2015 - 12:48am

In my last blog post, I highlighted the thinking of various historical schools on historical distance. The review highlighted distance as a temporal (time based) entity from which the historian could best study the events of the past. However, as Phillips (2004) pointedly argues, there is no best position from which to view the past, and historical distance is not just given to historians and readers alike; rather, is is constructed in a multitude of ways. 

Making History Matter Across the Curriculum

Posted by Katherine Joyce
26 April 2015 - 8:26pm

While teaching a Grade 9 Geography class last month, I had a student ask me why we were learning about history. We were exploring the question of why First Nations reserves are located where they are, and so I was giving the students some background information about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Canada. Her question surprised me - I always look to the past to try to better understand contemporary situations. I believe that we cannot understand the present without understanding the past. I told this to her and we moved on, but I have kept thinking and reading about the purpose of history across the curriculum since then.

Questioning Content: Inquiry Practices for History Classrooms

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
21 April 2015 - 11:59am

There is something good to be said about a University History Department’s efforts to maintain personal links with former graduates. Usually University links are purely financial; chasing after graduates with mailings and phone calls. History Departments, however, could provide an opportunity for graduates to stay connected to current scholarship in the field. Such is the situation at Laurier University where the History Department holds an annual gathering for history teachers in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, to attend the “Laurier History Teachers Colloquium.” Many are former graduates. For a number of years, the History Department has hosted an annual conference for teachers that feature lectures by Laurier faculty. Faculty share their research and teachers have a lovely lunch: tables set with white tablecloths, flowers and gift bags.

How does ethnicity impact ones experience in the history classroom?

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
19 April 2015 - 5:57pm

Peck’s (2011) chapter entitled “Ethnicity and Students’ Historical Understanding,” in Clark, ed., New Possibilities for the Past, raises many questions about the intersection between ethinicty and historical understanding. Peck’s main research question is: “What is the relationship between a student’s ethnic identity and his/her ascription of significance to phenomena in Canada’s past?” She conducted her research in Lower Mainland, British Colombia and included Aboriginal, immigrant, and Canadian-born grade twelve students (p. 312). To avoid any assumptions of student’s ethnic identities, “she asked students to complete a questionnaire eliciting demographic information and also asked them to write a paragraph describing their ethnic identity” (p. 312).

Diary of an Archivist: “The Sound and the Story” of Vinyl Records

Posted by Emily Chicorli
13 April 2015 - 8:04pm


One of the types of primary sources that I find most fascinating are sound recordings. From radio broadcasts of worldwide events, to listening to advertisements and stories, to listening to music or speeches, sound recordings offer a different and engaging way to learn about a historical time period.

Additionally, the massive changes in technology has altered the way we listen to, enjoy and acquire music. These changes make for excellent discussion with students about technology, history, music, performing arts, hobbies, leisure activities and more.

Click here for a link to a Youtube video and blog post featuring a video from 1956 on how vinyl records are made. This video can be used in social studies/history classes, technology discussions, and music and performing arts classes, to compare and contrast how we enjoy and listen music today compared to a different time.

Here are some discussions questions for the classroom:

Gaming in the History Classroom: Lessons Learned Playing Civilizations

Posted by Scott Pollock
8 April 2015 - 2:08pm

Teachers have been making use of historically themed computer games in their classrooms for decades, however there continues to be debate over this. Those who take issue with the use of computer games for history education draw attention to the historical inaccuracies found within these games, question how much is actually learned from gaming, and criticize the use of games as yet another example of “edutainment”. These are all legitimate concerns.

On the Use of Digital Humanities in the History Classroom

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
7 April 2015 - 2:19pm



There can be little doubt about the importance of the Digital Humanities in current discussions about teaching the humanities both in school curriculum and post-secondary course design.

It seems in terms of pedagogy that the Digital Humanities are not only here to stay, but are an integral part of how we do our work both as historians and as educators. Indeed, Kevin Kee’s work on gaming and the teaching of history promises that there is much to be gained – and to be learned – by integrating digital technologies and methods into the classroom.

Diary of an Archivist: Online Resource for Teaching Effectively with Primary Sources

Posted by Emily Chicorli
3 April 2015 - 12:35pm

I have another wonderful resources for teachers interested in using primary sources in their lessons! is a website created from the Students and Faculty in the Archives (SAFA) project, a three-year grant at the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) which partnered with a number of faculty at three colleges near the archives.

The website includes articles reflecting on pedagogy and offering practical advice from experienced educators and archives professionals, sample in-archives exercises that have been tweaked and refined in real courses, and more details about the project that helped create the site.

Teaching Historical Thinking to B.Ed. Students Part IV – Forging a New Identity?

Posted by David Bussell
29 March 2015 - 9:22pm

This year my blogs have focused on my role as an instructor, teaching B.Ed. students in a history program. With the conclusion of the classroom component, I am left to reflect on the challenges that still face my history teacher candidates going forward in their respective careers.

Using artifacts to teach social studies: What’s the story?

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
23 March 2015 - 8:36am

Expanding on my previous blog contributions, I’d like to introduce a project I’m currently working on, which involves object-based learning. Collaborating with a provincial history museum The New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, we are currently developing a unit of study that focusses specifically on artifacts, sport, and war. Through a series of six lesson plans, teachers will be able to access a variety of primary and second sources to compare and extend upon the artifact source, and thus reconstruct a “story” around each individual owner. This involves adopting a particular disciplinary approach to the past, which is commonly referred to as “material history” or “material culture.”

A gap between the present and the past? Historical distance and history education Part I

Posted by Chris Pedersen
9 March 2015 - 9:00am

Historical distance is a complex problem for historians. Therefore, in a curriculum predicated on historical thinking, distance — the time between the events of the past and the present (Bevir, 2011; Phillips, 2013) — is an interesting area of inquiry for history educators and students. In order to treat this topic with integrity, this will be the first of three blog posts on historical distance. First, I will review how different schools of historical thought conceptualized the problem of historical distance; second, I will look at how temporal distance is being defamiliarized; and third, I will discuss historical distance in relation to history education.

Playing the Past Using Virtual Environments

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
4 March 2015 - 8:21am

The advancement of technology has contributed to a different way of teaching and learning. How can historians and history teachers best use virtual environments (VE) to teach historical thinking in the classroom? The chapter by Kee and Darbyson in THEN/HiER's book New Possibilities for the Past provides insight into the opportunities of implementing VE in history classrooms.

Diary of an Archivist: LOC Primary Source Analysis Tool

Posted by Emily Chicorli
2 March 2015 - 10:05am

If you are a regular reader of the Diary of an Archivist blog posts, then you will have noticed that I constantly discuss the Library of Congress’ amazing tools and resources for teachers when working with primary sources.

Rethinking the First World War: MacMillan's The War That Ended Peace

Posted by Chris Pedersen
20 February 2015 - 4:17pm

As many countries around the world mark the centenary of the First World War, we (especially history teachers teaching the 20th century) might see the topic as all too familiar.  However, reading Margaret MacMillan’s (2013) The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 might change that. Through her book, what we may have known about this global conflict becomes defamiliarized. It is also a great, and timely, read.

MacMillan’s book analyzes the years leading up to 1914 and the outbreak of the global conflict, including the conditions and human actions that led Europe from peace to war. It is an historical narrative that paints a portrait of Europe at the time.

Indigenous Métissage and the Teaching of Residential Schools History

Posted by David Scott
16 February 2015 - 11:21am

In March of last year I had the opportunity to attend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Edmonton (2014). One of the most memorable moments of this national event occurred on the last day when the Minister of Aboriginal Relations, Frank Oberle, made the announcement that from this point further all kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum in Alberta will include mandatory content on the significance of residential schools. To a packed hall, Minister Oberle declared: "starting with the youngest members of our society, Alberta commits to residential school survivors, their families and communities, that Albertans will hear your stories and know your truths" (Cotter, 2014).

Feeling the Emotions of War: Developing Historical Empathy through the Visual Arts

Posted by Katherine Joyce
12 February 2015 - 9:48pm

I have a real interest in using visual sources to teach history. In December, I wrote about using propaganda posters to create the presence of the past in the classroom while teaching about the Spanish Civil War. This post explores another way to incorporate visual sources into the classroom, this time through the use of visual arts.

Teaching Historical Thinking Concepts to B.Ed. students Part III

Posted by David Bussell
12 February 2015 - 4:03pm

As an instructor of history methods in a B.Ed. program in Ontario, my current students and I have discussed a series of topics and issues regarding the ongoing learning and understanding of teaching using Historical Thinking Concepts (HTCs). This blog covers three such issues: 1) technology; 2) teaching thematically vs. chronologically; and 3) exploring non-dominant narratives.

Diary of an Archivist: Teaching with the Good Stuff

Posted by Emily Chicorli
11 February 2015 - 1:39pm


Back in November a conference entitled “Teaching with the Good Stuff: Educational Strategies for Archives, Libraries, and Museums” took place at the University of Pennsylvania.


The focus was on managing student programs and projects using archives, rare books, museum collections, and other special collections materials. The conference combined presentations on practical approaches for K-12 and college/grad students, lightning-round case studies, and attendee-driven conservations in order to bring together a whole variety of people.



Below are some of the main discussion points from the conference from the point of view of archivists, librarians and museum professionals. Teachers might like to keep these suggestions in mind when working with primary source materials:

History on Film

Posted by Scott Pollock
5 February 2015 - 11:57am

The use of historical feature films in history classrooms emerged as a topic of debate in the 1980s, as technological advances, such as the VCR, made these films increasingly accessible. Those in favor of using historical films have pointed to the ability of movies to immerse us in the past, and have argued that historical films provide students an opportunity to develop their historical understanding, to gain increased historical empathy, and to connect the present to the past (Marcus & Stoddard, 2007; Marcus, 2005; Rosenstone, 1988).

Understanding the Work of Women in Education

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
1 February 2015 - 6:15pm

I was fortunate this year to be given an opportunity by the Ontario Historical Society to guest edit a special edition of the Ontario History journal, which focuses on women and education in Ontario. I received support throughout the project by Tory Tronrud, senior editor. The publication will be published in the spring (Ontario History Vol. 107, No. 1 (Spring 2015) and I hope you will have an opportunity to read the collection.

Reading that Changed my View of History: Canada’s Grand Narrative in History Education

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
25 January 2015 - 8:43am

One year can have the power to change everything; and this past one has changed my view of history education in Canada. As a graduate student studying Canadian history education, I am grappling with the question: What type of history is taught in Ontario classrooms?

Ken Osborne’s article “Teaching history in schools: a Canadian debate” argues that the Canadian history debate in part derives from the conflict between political and social historians (Osborne, 2003, p. 586). He presents history education as a dichotomy, reflecting a conflict between the political (politics) and social (culture, gender, race, ethnicity) historians. I agree with this view, and as a practicing educator I see a need for high school teachers to strike a balance between the teachings of social and political national history in the classroom.

Reading that Changed my View of History: The History Manifesto

Posted by Scott Pollock
22 January 2015 - 1:13pm

While I read many pieces of history in 2014, the book that made me think the most about history was The History Manifesto by Jo Guldi & David Armitage. The authors make a series of interconnected arguments about the future of history as a discipline, and the public role historians could/should play.

The book begins with the claim that our contemporary society is plagued by short-term thinking (referred to by Guldi & Armitage as “short-termism”). There are many reasons for the rise of short-termism, such as the focus of businesses on quarterly cycles and politicians on upcoming elections, but Guldi & Armitage focus their discussion on the changing nature of university education, the declining influence of the humanities, and, most interestingly, on the changing nature of history as a discipline.

Reading that Changed my View of History Education: Nokes' Learning to Read and Reason

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
20 January 2015 - 8:38pm

Picture this:

"Ms. Cordova, the principal at McArthur Middle School, walks down the hall of the social studies department during third period. She notices the lights are off in Mr. Hanks’ classroom and, glancing in, observes that he is showing students a video. Most students are filling out a worksheet. Ms. Cordova is distracted by loud voices coming from the next classroom down the hall. As she approaches, she hears students reciting in unison the names of the presidents of the United States in chronological order… Finally Ms. Cordova sees Mr. Rich’s classroom, the class she has come to observe. As she enters, students’ behaviour appears somewhat chaotic… As Ms. Cordova approaches, Mr. Rich nervously welcomes her, inviting her to join the students’ discussions. Students pay little attention to her. They are looking at a black and white photograph of children working in a textile mill..." (Nokes, 2013, p.3).

Reading that Changed my View of History: Why re-enact?

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
12 January 2015 - 7:03pm

I enjoyed a number of history related books this year, but one of my favorites was one that did not explore history as it happened in previous decades and centuries. It focused instead on how we experience history today through re-enactments, festivals, and living history events. Approaching the topic with humor, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness, Charlie Schroeder’s 2012 book Man of War: My Adventures in the World of Historical Re-enactment (Hudson Street Press), shares the story of Schroeder's year of re-enactment experiences across the United States.

Diary of an Archivist: Archival Concepts for Teachers Part 2

Posted by Emily Chicorli
12 December 2014 - 5:22pm

In a previous post on archival concepts, I explained the basics of how records are organized based on provenance and original order, and then arranged to create a fonds. In this post, I will explain how finding aids are used to help researchers (and teachers!) find the sources they are looking for.

Finding aids were, and still are, very important tools for researchers. Unlike a library that contains books that are visible and accessible to individuals, an archive stores their records in temperature-controlled rooms not accessible by visitors. This is to keep the records safe and preserved, since many records are unique and the only surviving copies.

Reading that Changed My View of History: Trouillot's "Silencing the Past"

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
2 January 2015 - 4:36pm

Around the New Year social media is saturated with lists of things that happened in 2014, such as this one suggesting the top 25 historic events. I got to thinking—not about what happened, but about what I read in 2014 that changed the way I see history (as someone frequently thinking about how to write and teach history).

It would have been clever to feature something that was actually published in 2014, but to be honest, it was an older book that I found most useful in my own research. While 21st century global society seems obsessed with anything new, we historians keep turning to what is old(er), and that includes significant pieces of scholarship from the past.

Freedom Through Art: Challenging Censorship & the Violation of Human Rights

Posted by Stephanie Ander...
17 December 2014 - 5:46pm

In a Nov. 30th post I wrote about The Power of Real-Time Art to Transform the History Curriculum and referenced a hush-hush new art installation that is part of Vancouver Biennale's 2014-2016 exhibition Open Borders/Crossroads.

The wait is over.  Today, the worldwide debut of Ai Weiwei’s installation, F Grass, was unveiled in Green Harbour Park at the edge of Coal Harbour. Like the artist himself, F Grass is multifaceted, profound, political and humorous.

Teaching Historical Thinking to B.Ed Students: What Happens Part II

Posted by David Bussell
16 December 2014 - 2:26pm

Building on observations and feedback from teaching historical thinking in a B.Ed program, I want to reflect on my first blog in this series, written just before the B.Ed. students embarked on their first teaching placement. I will extend consideration of the challenges and opportunities, this time based on my four weeks of instruction between their first and second classroom teaching placements.

When the teacher candidates and I debriefed their placement experiences, several of the students who had placements in history classrooms mentioned that incorporating historical thinking into their lessons was difficult, due to the fact that some of their Associate Teachers (A.T’s) were still demonstrating more “traditional” instructional approaches to teaching history (using mostly textbooks and fact-based learning). This was not the case for every teacher candidate, but a significant number of them noted this challenge.

Diary of an Archivist: Archival Concepts for Teachers Part One

Posted by Emily Chicorli
10 December 2014 - 7:01pm

There are a few concepts in the archival profession that make working with records quite distinctive from materials you might find in a library, historical website or book. Knowing these concepts will make your quest to find relevant records a lot easier as you will better understand how to find the types of resources you need. 

Mapping the Historical Consciousness of 7th Graders

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
5 December 2014 - 1:00pm

I recently published a research note in the Journal of New Brunswick Studiesand as a graduate student who has devoted the past 5 years to exploring the phenomenon of historical consciousness, I am (needless-to-say) thrilled and honoured to see a small piece of my research published in a scholarly journal!

Creating the “Presence of the Past”: Using Visual Sources in the Classroom

Posted by Katherine Joyce
3 December 2014 - 4:06pm

I have just finished up my first practicum as part of my teacher education program. One of the courses I had the opportunity to teach was Ontario’s Grade 11 "Open World History Since 1900: Global and Regional Perspectives." The teacher with whom I was working asked me to teach a unit on the Spanish Civil War. And so I began to think about how on earth I would be able to create meaningful connections between this conflict and the students in the class.

The Power of Real-Time Art to Transform the History Curriculum

Posted by Stephanie Ander...
30 November 2014 - 6:53pm

What do you think the intended message of this artwork is? Who might the intended audience be? What contextual factors might help us interpret this work and how? What is the significance of the materials the artist has used? Could this work be interpreted as controversial? If yes, how so?


I’ve been anxiously waiting to post this piece, but its contents have been veiled in secrecy for months. I am now at liberty to reveal that very soon, Vancouver Biennale will unveil the worldwide debut of Ai Weiwei’s installation F-Grass.

The excitement surrounding this installation, by a famed artist and political activist is unprecedented, largely due to his position as a Chinese dissident. Ai Weiwei has not been allowed to obtain a passport, travel abroad, install his work or attend his own openings.

Diary of an Archivist: Let’s talk about teacher resources

Posted by Emily Chicorli
20 November 2014 - 9:38pm

Searching for archival material/primary sources can be a daunting task if you’re not familiar with archival terms, resources and systems of organization.

Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Jacobs: Discussing the moments our heroes fell short

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
19 November 2014 - 8:23pm

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a remarkable woman. She used words, characters, and powerful storytelling to bring the horrors of slavery into the homes of many Americans in the years preceding the American Civil War. Her most famous work, Uncle Tom's Cabin, first produced in serial form for the National Era in 1851, and then as a best selling book, sold hundreds of thousands of copies. It was popular in America, but also around the world, and Stowe became a celebrity in Europe as well as the United States.

Narratives and Historical Thinking

Posted by Scott Pollock
18 November 2014 - 1:42pm

I recently had the privilege of attending the Ontario History and Social Studies Teachers Association (OHASSTA) conference. There were many thought-provoking sessions dealing with a range of topics, including assessing conversations, disciplinary thinking in the social sciences, and assessing historical thinking.

Profiling Arctic Histories while Imagining Arctic Futures: Ensuring peace and safety North of 60?

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
9 November 2014 - 1:14pm

At this time of year many of us are thinking about the contributions and sacrifices of the Canadian forces over the last 100 years around the world. With recent attacks on military and political personnel at home, we are also considering the ways peace and safety are ensured in our own communities.

If we expand our understanding of peace and safety to include self-determination, food security, search and rescue services, and environmental protection - as many Indigenous (and other) peoples in Canada have articulated we must - the picture becomes more complicated... and important. For many Canadians, rights to distinct identity and language, nutrition and homes, justice and safety are relatively accessible, even if we all struggle with unexpected environmental crises in the short and long term.

Ignorance of History as a Site of Memory

Posted by Raphaël Gani
31 October 2014 - 3:23pm

This semester at University of Ottawa, I am taking Dr. Lorna McLean’s graduate course on public memory. As part of the course final project, students had to pick a site of memory and describe itHere is my choice. 

The discourse about Canadians ignoring their collective past, or not knowing their national history, is neither new (Osborne, 2003) nor limited to Canada (Wineburg, 2001). Such a view tends to be legitimized according to surveys in which people fail to identify famous events and politicians. This failure is also linked with angst about the perils of the nation and questions of citizenship. It is used to justify million-dollar investments and educational reforms.

Learning with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
29 October 2014 - 6:42pm

For educators interested in human rights, consider the recently opened Canadian Museum of Human Rights as your go-to source for lesson plans and teaching ideas. As someone who has been watching the museum develop from afar, I look forward to the day when I can visit in person. Yet, for those of us restricted by distance, the museum’s web site provides an effective outreach service that is equally beneficial.

Why is it so hard to teach the history of Canadian human rights?

Posted by Scott Pollock
22 October 2014 - 2:10pm

As I have mentioned in previous blog postings I have been teaching Canadian history for well over a decade now. During that time I have found resources for, and interesting ways to teach, a wide range of topics. One area that I continue to find challenging, however, is teaching about the development of our human rights in Canada.

Why is this? In large part I believe it is due to two powerful misconceptions that my students bring with them. First, students (or at least mine) approach the development of our human rights from a whiggish perspective, assuming that the broadening of human rights over time was both inevitable and natural. Second, students frequently fail to see the significance of our human rights (likely because they see them as natural and therefore struggle to imagine life without them).

Archives, Primary Sources and Critical Thinking

Posted by Emily Chicorli
21 October 2014 - 4:44pm

Similar to bringing students to an actual museum or historic site, bringing records of events and history to students enables them to get a better understanding of historical content, enables them to critically think about the implications of these records, and asks them to analyze components of records otherwise left alone in a textbook or worksheet.

Issues with Teaching the Recent Past

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
19 October 2014 - 8:49pm

Through this blog I hope to spark discussions around the ways in which we teach about military regimes, violations of human rights, and the transition to democracy in the recent past - using the history of Chile as an example. Teaching the history of human rights reflects what Magendzo & Toledo focus on in their article, “Moral dilemmas in teaching recent history related to the violation of human rights in Chile.” Magendzo & Toledo examine the moral dilemmas, including tensions, conflicts and contradictions, teachers face when teaching recent Chilean history around the topic of human rights. They outline the emotions and personal narratives that characterize teachers’ pedagogy and student participation.

Teaching Historical Thinking to B.Ed Students: What Happens?

Posted by David Bussell
16 October 2014 - 12:13pm

As a new sessional instructor teaching B.Ed students, I am observing the challenges and opportunities that pre-service teachers face when they are exposed to the Historical Thinking Concepts (HTCs) for the first time.  In a series of blogs, I am planning to track the introduction of the HTCs in my B.Ed course - prior to the students going out on their first teaching placements. So far, this experience has been two-fold: 1) it has allowed me to experience the strengths and limitations of my own teaching abilities, and 2) shown me where pre-service teachers need guidance and support at the beginning of their teaching careers.

Teaching the History of Human Rights? Explore Online Resources

Posted by Katherine Joyce
10 October 2014 - 11:10am

I have recently gone back to school to become a high school history teacher. As a teacher candidate, I see the theories that I studied about history education as a grad student in a more practical light. So, I have decided to focus this post on an amazing resource collection that we as teachers can use to teach the history of human rights in our classrooms.

French-Canadians, identity and historical consciousness: narrating the collective past

Posted by Stéphane Lévesque
7 October 2014 - 3:12pm

Setting the stage

Let me begin with a short exercise. Take a moment and write down, in your own words, the history of your country, your nation, or your homeland (patris) as your know it. Then, summarize your own historical account in one phrase, one tweet.

This is the task that we put before some Franco-Ontarian high school students and beginning history teachers from Ottawa, Ontario.  Without formal notice, we dropped into their classrooms on a cold winter day with laptop computers and asked them to complete a short online demographic questionnaire followed by this open task: Please tell us the history of Ontario as you know it.

Using our laptop computers, participants could write their story in the way and structure they wished with only one rule: the duration of the task was 60 minutes. 

"A wash of patriotism and national pride:" the narrow portrayal of war in Ontario textbooks

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
2 October 2014 - 10:12pm

This past summer I attended the ISCHE conference at the University of London, England with a focus on education and war. My paper "We cannot fight this war if we don’t eat”: The invisibility of war work in history textbooks in schools in Ontario, Canada, explored the ways Ontario textbooks have been presenting the First World War from textbooks published in the 1920s and up until current publications.

Introducing Museum Musings: A New Resource to Make History Fun & Engaging

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
30 September 2014 - 6:35pm

With this month marking the start of a new school year, I have partnered with fellow historian Peter Koniecznto start Museum Musings, an educational resource to highlight all of the fun and interesting ways museums are teaching history.

Read below for one of our first posts: 14 Things I Love About Working in a Museum


1. The Security Guards

Taking Time for Role Reversals in Museums

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
16 September 2014 - 8:13pm

One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered when working with both adults and students in community history museums, is the problem of time

How to Teach the First World War

Posted by Scott Pollock
13 September 2014 - 5:51pm

As we begin to move through a series of anniversaries related to the First World War, history teachers will likely be asked to focus more attention on this era. I know that I, as a practicing high school teacher, am already seeing signs of increased interest from students and my school community. While any indication of interest in history is of course very welcome, the challenge many educators will face is to present the events of the war in a rich and multilayered fashion when the narrative offered by other sources (e.g., media, video games) is so often focused upon one group- the soldiers- and even then presents an overly simplified account.

There are, of course, many ways to approach this problem (and I would encourage anyone reading this to share any good ideas by commenting below). I, however, have decided to problematize my students’ collective memory of the First World War by focusing upon the issue of commemoration.

Diary of An Archivist: Defining Archivist

Posted by Emily Chicorli
9 September 2014 - 5:08pm


Teachers increasingly use primary sources in their classrooms, but do they discuss with students where the primary sources come from? And who takes care of the primary sources? Generally, discussions focus on the significance of the primary source, the relation of the primary source to a unit of study, the interpretation of the primary source and so forth.

The purpose of this blog post is to explain what an archivist is, and the primary roles and responsibilities of archivists so that educators can pass on this information to their students when they use primary sources in a classroom. Describing the role of an archivist and explaining how the primary sources used in classes have been taken care of over the years can be exciting for students. It can add an additional layer of critical thinking and understanding to their learning - as I will discuss in a future instalment of Diary of an Archivist- so stay tuned!

Is Historical Illiteracy For Real?

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
5 September 2014 - 3:21pm

If history illiteracy is on the rise, how are Ontario’s teachers teaching the aspects, concepts and facts of history? Is there a disconnect between history and today’s students? Is Ontario becoming historically illiterate? The Agenda aired a program on TVO entitled “Ignorant of History,” which sparked both controversy and support for the idea that Canadians are becoming historically illiterate. Many individuals including educators and parents alike commented on this episode.

Comics and Canadian Feminism: Willow Dawson’s Hyena in Petticoats and the Story of Suffragist Nellie McClung

Posted by Sean Carleton
30 August 2014 - 7:49pm

Historically, women have not fared well in comic books. As a traditionally male dominated medium, derogatory depictions of women figure prominently in both past and present comics. Even portrayals of iconic female characters from the 1940s and 1950s, such as the US-generated Wonder Woman and, in Canada, Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Bell, 2006), often conform to what scholars Erving Goffman and Sut Jhally have called “Codes of Gender” (Goffman, 1959 and 1978; Jhally, 1987 and 2009). In short, this graphic form commonly represents women as deferential, submissive, and highly sexualized. Even the empowering attributes of superheroines, of which there are admittedly some, often take place within an overarching patriarchal framework and thus adhere to stereotypically constricting gender roles.

(Provincial) Canadians and Their Pasts - Ignoring the Territorial North, Again

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
28 August 2014 - 12:08pm

It isn’t a new experience, but it still feels disappointing when I come across a ‘national’ study that neglects the territorial North. I have written about this with regard to history education before. I resisted writing about this when I bought Burke & Milewski’s edited collection Schooling in Transition: Readings in Canadian History of Education (2012) and noticed that they didn’t mention the glaring neglect of the territories in their ‘Canadian’ collection (though Jason Ellis, a reviewer of the book, did notice).

Fact or Fiction?: A Game Using Archival Records to Solve Historical Questions

Posted by Emily Chicorli
17 July 2014 - 11:38am


Every week at some point during the school year there are opportunities when the class is ahead of schedule, no assemblies are taking place in the gymnasium, and furiously marking assignments in order to submit them for report cards is not required. On these days teachers have the options to move on with the curriculum, play a movie, assign silent reading and so on. Or, perhaps the teacher suggests to the class playing an educational game that not only involves all students participating in their learning, but also reinforces what students have learned throughout the year.  I would like to suggest a game that not only works in the history or social studies classroom, but in a wide range of environments that engages students to collaborate with each other, critically analyze historical evidence, compare and contrast information, authenticate records and have fun.

Thoughts about Congress 2014

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
31 May 2014 - 7:05pm

The theme for Congress 2014 held last week at Brock University was "Borders without Boundaries", appropriate for a university bordering the United States. I had the opportunity to present as part of a roundtable at the Canadian Historical Association (CHA)--their sub-theme: Boundaries of Historical Inquiry of course.

The big challenge, as always, was trying to ‘do it all’--or even part of it. I found myself torn between simultaneous scheduled panels--sometimes forced to run between rooms or across campus. The range of topics covered at the CHA was staggering. Lyle Dick, Ruth Sandwell and John Lutz spoke about their trip to Rankin Inlet and the upcoming mystery for the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project, the Enduring Franklin Mystery.

The Berkshire Conference on the History of Women: Reflections on Historical Practice

Posted by Jodey Nurse
29 May 2014 - 7:36am

Last week I attended the Sixteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, which was held for the first time outside of the United States, in Toronto, Canada. This was my first “Big Berks.” I realized that I was privileged to present a paper, and I knew that attending this conference would be both informative and stimulating. What I had not anticipated, but was not surprised about, was the incredible sense of community that I encountered. I hesitate to use the word 'community', and recognize some historians’ unease with the concept. However, I did feel a strong camaraderie and connection with my fellow participants. This was not just because of the sizeable presence of historians focusing on my area of research, rural women’s history, but because of the general sense of purpose among all attendees: highlighting “Histories on the Edge” (the conference’s theme), which included international studies on the history of women, gender, and sexuality.

Berks Conference: Rural Women and Early Photography

Posted by Jacqueline McIsaac
27 May 2014 - 8:40pm

The 2014 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women provided me with many opportunities to explore the gendered implication within my own research as well as learn much about current research in gender history. My research focuses on early photography in rural Ontario, where most photographers were male. I had never considered the gendered aspects of my topic until encouraged to submit an abstract to the Berks, after which point I began seeing women’s general absence from rural Ontario’s photography as not only significant, but also as a crucial avenue towards a more comprehensive analysis of how photographic acts were understood in the late nineteenth century.

Deconstructing Museums at the Berks

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
18 May 2014 - 2:26pm

It’s the first time that the Big Berks are in Canada! The Berkshire Conference on the History of Women will be hosted by the University of Toronto, as well as various institutions, on May 22-25, 2014.

I’m particularly thrilled to be part of a roundtable at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in the company of fabulous scholars whose work focuses on challenging gender in museums, exhibitions and archives. It’s been a great opportunity for me to trot out my oral history project that I began in 2011, with 50 museum educator participants. Individual museum educator agency is woefully understudied, and there is very little out there about Canadian museum educators and what they talk about and think about in our museums.

Blog Contest--Keeping it Real

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
16 April 2014 - 8:30am

The recent announcement of a name change for Canada’s Museum of Civilization has sparked a great deal of public debate in Canada. It all began, when Heritage Minister, James Moore, first announced the idea in 2012, as part of a departmental rebranding initiative. In anticipation of Canada’s upcoming 150th anniversary of Confederation, funding priorities are being directed towards specific historical benchmarks.

Blog Contest--Renewed History Wars: 21st Century Commemoration in Canada

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
15 April 2014 - 10:33am

It seems Canadians are talking more and more about their past. In these renewed “History Wars,” this time fought in the more public domains of commemoration and education rather than in the writing of historians, we have already seen a few casualties.

Blog Contest--My History Museum: What story should a museum tell?

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
16 April 2014 - 8:27am


In the fall of 2012 the Canadian Museum of Civilization announced plans to undergo major rebranding and exhibit development in preparation for the 150th anniversary of Confederation. New exhibits will focus on major moments in Canadian history and the museum will be taking on new name: the Canadian Museum of History.  One of the goals of rebranding is to share more of Canada's story with with the world; as Heritage Minister James Moore said in an October 16, 2012 CBC article,   "Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our stories and presents our country's treasures to the world...Our children need to know more about Canada's past." The announcement was not without controversy. Some felt that the changes reflected a conservative agenda for the nation's cultural institutions and others that it was not the right time to putting millions into museum projects.


Blog Contest--The Ethical Dimension

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
15 April 2014 - 12:10pm

            The facilitation of research on the teaching and learning of history in Canada can be categorized by Peter Seixas’ ‘Benchmarks of Historical Thinking.’ This project has codified historical consciousness within six distinct categories including: historical significance, primary source evidence, continuity and change, cause and consequence, historical perspectives and the ethical dimension. These stages when practiced together can influence historical thinking to competencies in historical literacy (Seixas). While historical thinking has become a phenomenon across Canada, there has been world wide interest in how to teach and learn history in the classroom. Sam Wineburg argued in Historical Thinking and other Unnatural Acts that “historical thinking … goes against the grain of how we ordinarily think…it is much easier to learn names, dates, and stories than it is to change the basic mental structures we use to grasp the meaning of the past” (Wineburg, 7).

Gendering History: An Unfinished Transformation

Posted by Scott Pollock
12 May 2014 - 3:10pm


It is widely recognized that until the 1960s and 1970s the teaching of Canadian history in secondary schools focused upon the lives of “significant” individuals (mostly white men) and the development of the nation-state. As the study of Canadian history at the post-secondary level broadened to include the lives of women, working people, and others neglected by the traditional grand-narrative, K-12 education began to slowly change as well. In terms of gender history we can see evidence of this in curriculum documents and textbooks, which began to make references to significant women, such as Laura Secord or Nellie McClung in the 1970s and 1980s. While these changes were positive the addition of a few women, all of whom conformed to traditional criteria for significance (i.e., they had an impact on the development of the nation-state), it did little to change the historical narrative being taught in schools.

Another Canadian Truth Commission You - and Our Youth - Should Know About

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
12 May 2014 - 3:01pm

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is in the last phase of its mandate, and one of their accomplishments is surely that most Canadians now have at least some awareness about residential schools in our shared history.

Fewer Canadians are aware that a smaller, but related, truth and reconciliation commission was occurring in the Qikiqtani (formerly called Baffin) region of Nunavut before the TRC got underway.

Why Historical Thinking? A Lesson From Chess

Posted by Nathan Moes
5 May 2014 - 2:00pm

Professional Chess, as I know it, is as much a game of memory, as it is strategy.

One only needs to watch games played by grandmasters hard at work on the black and white board. Their grey matter memory banks are hard at work during these games, particularly the opening sequences. The first twelve to sixteen moves are often played at an exceptionally rapid pace, as though little strategic thought is occurring. In fact, little is occurring.

Labour History in Arctic Canada?

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
18 April 2014 - 7:53am

This month’s theme on “Teaching the Past” - labour history - challenged me to look for how one might go about inquiring into this topic, and what one would find, in Arctic Canada. One of the most intriguing teaching resources from the past I have come across is a book called Then and Now in Frobisher Bay by Thomas H.W. Martin, edited by Neil Sutherland for the Gage World Community Study series, published in 1969.

It begins by asking readers: “How and why have the Eskimos of Frobisher Bay changed their ways of living? -- What have they gained? What have they lost? How do you know - or do you?”

Understanding the Relevance of Working Class History

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
15 April 2014 - 9:17am

The mention of working class history stirs up images of factory workers, construction labourers, and other physically demanding and low-income types of work. Working class history is typically misinterpreted as a male domain of history, with major history textbooks often ignoring the work of working class women inside and outside of the home. Last year, as part of my Master’s program, my colleagues and I curated an exhibition for Museum London dedicated to the history of labour in London, Ontario. In particular, my group focused on the many contributions that women made to the city's history of labour.

Teaching the Past for a Better Future

Posted by Jessica Chandra...
8 April 2014 - 11:33am
The prevention of atrocity and genocide in the future was firmly grounded in an historical framework.The 

“It all started with a defeat…”: Québec Students and Narrative Thinking

Posted by Stéphane Lévesque
4 April 2014 - 7:50am

“It all started with a defeat…” is but one of the numerous catchphrases used by Québec students to describe the narrative experience of their province according to Jocelyn Létourneau’s most recent book, Je me Souviens? Le passé du Québec dans la conscience de sa jeunesse (Fides, 2014), published last week.

For the last 10 years, Université Laval Professor Létourneau has been interested in the historical consciousness of young Canadians. Refuting survey results showing abysmal lack of historical knowledge among youth, he collected over 3500 historical accounts of Québec high school and university students, asking them to write a short story and sum up in one phrase the historical adventure of their province. The results are both fascinating and troubling.

The Sell: How to Get Your Students Interested in History

Posted by Nathan Moes
1 April 2014 - 2:15pm

The sell is small, and big. It is the small touches that may just pull in a reluctant student for just long enough to embed the hook and let the inherently engaging task of a historian (truth, no?) take us home.

Just as a law teacher will receive more buy-in if she books the local courthouse for her class’ courtroom deliberations, or a science teacher finds a class of labcoat-ed students mindfully poring over clues in a ready made crime scene, a history teacher may be greeted with enthusiasm, greater attention and more robust work if they pay attention to how they "sell" their activities to students.

Ottawa Rewind: Investigating Ottawa’s History Mysteries

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
30 March 2014 - 7:40pm

Local history mysteries often escape popular attention, with fascinating stories never seeing the light of a textbook, article, movie, or heritage moment. Cities and towns across the Canada remain a treasure trove of mysteries waiting to be unraveled. The mystery of familiar places not only provides an excellent teaching opportunity to demonstrate effective research methodology, but also allows for the development of an inquisitive relationship with history. Andrew King’s website, Ottawa Rewind, is a blog dedicated to telling stories of Ottawa’s past. Ottawa Rewind publishes posts that pose interesting questions, challenge preconceived notions of historical events, and allow the reader to engage intellectually with the information displayed before them.

From Winnipeg 1919 to Bangladesh 2014: Working Class Histories Are Still Relevant

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
25 March 2014 - 8:13am

With new history curriculum across the country focusing on historical thinking and disciplinary concepts, history teachers are looking more and more for good primary documents that will be engaging and meaningful to their students, and provide opportunities for critical thinking. This means providing more than political speeches and military accounts. Despite a shift nationally towards commemoration of “key” military events (the War of 1812) most teachers in the field understand that the voices of ordinary citizens provide a deeper reflection of what constitutes our collective history.

From Dachau to Calgary: The "Understanding Atrocities" Conference

Posted by Laura Cohen
23 March 2014 - 4:12pm


We are reminded that history is alive constantly: by governments, the news, on the web, on television, in school—the list goes on. And yet, to fully appreciate the role that history plays in our contemporary lives, sometimes a powerful reminder comes our way. For me, it was the opportunity to participate in Mount Royal University’s “Understanding Atrocities” conference that took place in February 2014. 

Snuggled into the frozen and mountainous landscapes of Calgary, the conference was a unique opportunity for me on a few levels.

First, I had the opportunity to share my ongoing research about the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center and Cemetery to the Victims of the 1995 Genocide in Bosnia i Herzegovina (BiH) and to receive invaluable feedback from fellow scholars.

De-Constructing Cabinets of Curiosity: History’s Mysteries in the Museum

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
18 March 2014 - 9:42am

Building upon this month’s theme of ‘Canadian History’s Mysteries’, I would like to share with you some of my own fieldwork experience regarding museum education and the historical thinking concept of evidence and sources. This research demonstrates how students can be empowered to not just absorb the narratives they encounter in museums—but rather consider exhibit artifacts as mystery sources waiting to be deciphered.

Central to this approach to museum education is the understanding that a discipline-based method for historical inquiry in museums requires a slightly different set of procedures. This is because history museums are not like other sites of learning. Curators in history museums become very adept at "reading" artifacts for their visual clues. Within the museum profession, historians who have nurtured this ability are called material historians. Hence, material historians are able to read much more than words.

Here Come the History Simulations!

Posted by Angelica Radjenovic
16 March 2014 - 12:11pm

Editor's note: Please be advised that this is an American history website; not all resources discussed are free.

 David Harms has designed an interactive history simulation website for teachers that encourages problem solving, collaboration, higher order thinking and decision-making. According to Harms, History Simulation engages students by stimulating their attention. It encourages active participation and strategic thinking skills that are centered on improving problem solving skills, creativity and curiosity. These simulations will encourage students to move around the class and become involved rather than sitting and listening to a didactic lesson.

Parachuting or Truffle-Hunting: A Good Guide to Inquiry

Posted by Tom Morton
10 March 2014 - 2:30pm

Parachutist or a truffle-hunter? This is an often-quoted distinction between the historian who likes the grand view from above, and the type who prefers to keep the nose to the ground to unearth tasty treasures. The distinction can also apply to teachers' guides for teaching history. Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer's  IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning firmly favours the truffle-hunters and their many treats, but it also covers a wide horizon of key features of the inquiry landscape.

History as Mystery & Questions of Historical Significance

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
9 March 2014 - 8:57pm

Kate provided a fantastic introduction to this month’s focus on using mysteries in history education, especially through the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History websites. I am involved in the development of a new mystery site (but it isn’t ready yet!) on the disappearance of the Franklin Expedition in the Arctic. Until that resource is ready you can learn more about it at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

From Macro to Micro and Someplace in Between: Reflections on the Understanding Atrocities Conference

Posted by Ashley DeMartini
5 March 2014 - 11:57am

As a doctoral fledgling, Mount Royal’s recent “Understanding Atrocities” functioned to broaden, reinvigorate and deepen my thinking in and around the field of genocide studies. Most notably, the reflections of Dr. Andrea Smith and Dr. James Waller whose ideas have continued to reverberate with me. My own foray into genocide studies concerned the genocide memorials in Rwanda, specifically how the labour-intensive tasks performed by its employees created a context to interpret the human remains at the sites (DeMartini, 2012). Smith and Waller’s talks offered macro and micro inquiries into the processes of genocide, helping me to return and think freshly about the work I did during my Master’s fieldwork.

Being a Historian is Like Being a Detective

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
4 March 2014 - 11:31am

This month's blog theme will revolve around the concept of 'Canadian history's mysteries.'  

Educators are increasingly framing the historical investigation of particular events as a 'mystery', a moment in time where 'what really happened' is up for debate, encouraging their students to gather archival evidence and build an argument to 'solve' them. Websites like the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History site provide educators with one-stop support to deal with a host of  historical cold crimes. Students can engage with 'document-based inquiry' through digitized and virtual sources that have been gathered for a series of events. Was Group of Seven member Tom Thomson's drowning accidental? Who first discovered Klondike gold? Who killed Ada Redpath and her son? Why was Marie-Joseph Angelique tortured and hanged? 

Diary of a History TA: What Students Taught Me

Posted by Neal Adolph
24 February 2014 - 10:44am

I could tell you the name of the student that led me to buy a big, red,paper mache apple for class, but I won’t. There was one, in a different class, that made it clear that participation marks – those most wretched of all forms of evaluation – need to be clearly explained to students.I remember their names too. I could even name the student that led me to buy a notebook in which I document all the conversations I have in my office hours, but I won’t. I don’t believe in smearing people.However, I will tell you that these students were damned smart.I will also say that they caught me completely off guard, making them important students in my work as a Teaching Assistant.

Venturing Past the Books in the Library: Using Public Resources to Learn about Diverse Local Histories

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
21 February 2014 - 5:56pm

Recent THEN/HiER Blog posts have tackled how to include family histories in the classroom and have offered a myriad of online resources that allow students and teachers alike to perform research from the comfort of their own homes. These tools are great for developing core research skills that every student needs – but let’s not forget the basic library research experience that every young researcher needs! With the surge in popularity of genealogy research, local libraries across Canada have cultivated extensive local history collections that can rival large institutions. These special collection areas require the researcher to venture past the stacks and into ominous reading rooms that include a mixture of archival holdings, books, microfiche, and more.

The Women's Resource Education Collection: Linking Diverse Women's Histories to the Classroom

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
17 February 2014 - 6:37pm

Last week's HerstoriesCafe event took place at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and honoured the work of Frieda Forman, who established OISE's Women's Education Resource Center. The center grew out of a project that began in 1976 in Toronto, developing as Forman recalled, from the political passion that was the women's movement.  This was prior to the inauguration of women's studies faculties, in the days when there weren't any PhDs offered in women's studies because the discipline didn't exist.

Bringing Diverse Local History into the Classroom Using Soldier Files

Posted by Katherine Ireland
17 February 2014 - 9:01am

One project drawing out the incredible diversity of local history here in New Brunswick focuses on artillery units raised in the province over the past century. Led by The Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society here at the University of New Brunswick, the project aims to collect primary source evidence from families and community members to piece together a story that is a relatively unexamined part of the history of the world wars. 

What does History have to do with ‘Teach For Canada’? Sustainable Improvement in Rural and Northern Teaching

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
9 February 2014 - 4:58pm

In thinking about teaching ‘the past’ something that I find interesting is the issue of who is doing the teaching. How well are they prepared and supported to teach histories (perhaps) they themselves didn’t learn? This is an important question in parts of Canada where teachers are frequently itinerant – living in a community specifically to take up the job of teaching, often temporarily (2 years or less). These folks are usually not teaching in their home region or even a place they intend to make their home, they did not grow up learning the history of that place, and may not identify with the people of that place. While schools of education advertise a teaching degree as a ‘ticket to travel’ in the globalized marketplace, in practice teachers often need substantial supports to meet expectations of programs that value cultural- and local-responsiveness. This is certainly true in many schools north of 60°.

“I found my grandfather!”: Students Researching their Family History

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
1 February 2014 - 12:39pm

Last December, the THEN/HiER blog was abuzz with interesting discussions about family history in the classroom. As my colleagues have pointed out, family history can “maximize student engagement and learning” (Maddie Knickerbocker, December 3, 2013); it can “build an enduring and evolving connection to the past” (Heather McGregor, December 5, 2013); it can “serve as entry points into the bigger picture of history” (Kate Ireland, December 12, 2013); and can “open the door of possibility for building research skills” (Jesika Arseneau, December 20, 2013).

Environmental History Lessons in the Classroom

Posted by Katherine Ireland
31 January 2014 - 4:29am


In Heather McGregor’s post, Teaching Environmental History and Cross-Cultural Comparison, she states:

“Environmental history provides a window into human activities in the natural world over time. It should also provide a window into comparison between groups of humans over time. In doing so, the understanding of ‘Others’ can be expanded – both human others and non-human others. Perhaps then decisions and judgments about relationships and policies relevant to the environment can be constructed with more creativity, and more respect.”

Thinking about the Environment: Students' Cognitive Maps

Posted by Scott Pollock
29 January 2014 - 7:57pm

Environmental history is a topic of undeniable importance, and one that I must confess I know far too little about. As a result of this I was quite excited to learn that this would be topic for this month’s THEN/HiER blog! Having closely read all of this month’s entries I feel that I have been given a great deal to think about!

Get Out of the Classroom and Into the Archive

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
4 February 2014 - 8:26pm

When it comes to creating historical narratives, it’s important to go right to the source(s).

The best way to introduce students to using primary sources in libraries and archives is by actually taking them there. Sources “live” in a variety of places. With the push towards digitization it has become much easier to introduce students to primary sources through digitized collections.

But a digitized source doesn’t replace seeing an actual source in person.

Using GIS to Teach Environmental History

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
27 January 2014 - 2:54pm

There can be no argument against the fact that today’s graduates are expected to be well rounded, inquisitive, and analytical – but more importantly, they are expected to be tech-savvy. As a recent graduate of a Master’s program myself, I find that today’s entry-level job positions go far beyond asking for the traditional skills that used to be acceptable resume features; no longer is it acceptable to write that you can competently use Microsoft Office and move on. Instead, today’s arts and culture field is searching for new graduates that are fully immersed in new and emerging technologies and completely confident in their abilities to use programs such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Google Apps, and more. Many students of history expect their work to be done mostly from textbooks and other forms of documents. This is an expectation that can and should be broken down in the classroom.

Diary of a History TA: Reflecting upon the Rewards

Posted by Neal Adolph
24 January 2014 - 3:02pm

The rewards for being a Teaching Assistant are few and far between. I knew this to be true before I came to graduate school and signed up for this meagre means of sustaining my studies - made possible only with the additional support of scholarships and bursaries and research assistant positions - because I had experienced it when I was teaching high school social studies in a small city in the prairies. I also suspect that this is true of all jobs. Our warm fuzzies come in the form of employment, of money, of the things that money can buy (or the things we often wish we could buy if we were getting more money for our time). Funny how these warm fuzzies are not warm for long.

Engaging Aboriginal perspectives in the social studies classroom: New possibilities for the teaching of environmental history

Posted by David Scott
20 January 2014 - 2:06am


In a recent THEN/HiER blog post exploring how educators can take up environmental history, Heather McGregor argues that this can be achieved by helping students better appreciate the ways our view of the environment is socially and culturally constructed. Based on this orientation, she writes:

I would invite history teachers, and historians who help develop resources for environmental history education, to consider more deeply how we can teach students that human relationships with environments and environmental components (any non-human beings) are heavily mediated by changing cultural views. How do we look for, and mobilize, sources that convey different views while taking those views seriously – stretching our minds to imagine what it means when someone understands a rock as an animate being, or a seal as their relative as well as their sustenance? (p. 1)

The Dodo Bird: Environmental History Lessons

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
14 January 2014 - 6:44pm

It is hard not to smile when encountering images of dodo birds. From their large hooked beaks to their short legs and round forms, they have a cartoonish appearance that captures the imagination. Although they went extinct around 1681, they remain an easily recognizable bird, and representations of dodos can be found in books, movies,  advertisements and collectibles. Well-known literary examples include Dodo in Alice in Wonderland, and the delightful pet dodos that populate Jasper Fforde's  Thursday Next book series with their cheerful “plock plock” noises. The iconic image of the dodo bird, however, is likely inaccurate. A relative of the pigeon, the bird was not quite as plump as some drawings might portray, but its inability to fly made it a vulnerable target when people, and their cats, dogs and rats, landed on the Island of Mauritius and discovered it in 1598.

Teaching Environmental History and Cross-Cultural Comparison

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
4 January 2014 - 3:47pm

I am mostly an educational historian, and I came to educational history by way of environmental history. After all, as an historian of the Arctic and Arctic peoples how could one not begin with the environment? Preparing this blog and thinking about environmental history in terms of teaching (only too briefly), is, in a way, a ‘returning’ for me.

Family History as a Gateway to Learning about Archives

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
20 December 2013 - 1:02pm

This monthTHEN/HIER has seen a number of thought-provoking blog posts about the role that family history plays in the life of both the student and the teacher. Heather McGregor wrote an excellent blog about how family history is useful because it helps us to foster an ongoing relationship with the past, making history more meaningful and relevant to generations of budding historians. Covering family history in the classroom allows learning to go beyond the textbook and opens the door of possibility for building research skills early in education. As mentioned by Heather, it can often be difficult to translate the passion that an educator feels for history into a classroom lesson or activity that is engaging for the student, who may not feel that same passion.

History Education in Canada without Historical Thinking? A Worrisome Prospect

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
17 December 2013 - 5:20pm

Recently Peter Seixas announced that the Historical Thinking Project (the Project) was denied ongoing funding by the Department of Canadian Heritage. This change was purportedly because the purposes of the Project do not coincide with, as quoted from The Canada History Fund, “projects that celebrate key milestones and people who have helped shape our country as we know it today”.

Cabinets of Curiosity

Posted by Tom Morton
17 December 2013 - 1:14pm

This blog was originally published by Tom Morton on the BC Heritage Fairs website, under Student Resource/ Teacher Resource, September 18, 2013.

A Darning Ball, a Memorial Plaque and a Girl with Her Pet Beaver – three stories about the lure of the artifact.

A Matter of Time

Posted by Peter Seixas
17 December 2013 - 12:16pm

For the Historical Thinking Project, 2013-14 was the best of times and the worst of times.

It was the best of times because two of Canada’s largest provinces made the most concrete and comprehensive headway in adapting the ideas of the Project for their curricula. Ontario implemented a new K-12 curriculum that embedded the historical thinking concepts as a core element of the history program. British Columbia released a draft social studies curriculum heading in much the same direction. As a result, the demands for professional development and materials in historical thinking have skyrocketed.

Considering Family Histories in the Elementary Classroom

Posted by Katherine Ireland
12 December 2013 - 8:23am


I found Heather McGregor’s post for this topic insightful, and this statement in particular at the end of her piece stood out to me: “engaging with family history shows students that their own questions about the past are important.” Elementary school is the place where students’ horizons can be narrowed just as easily as broadened, as we begin to teach them which histories are more valued than others. Barton (1997; 1996) notes that students are most likely to progress when they can ask questions and have access to sources that are significant to them; he, like Lévesque (2008), suggests family or community links are an important factor here.

Using Identity, Family History and Family Artifacts to Connect with the Past

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
5 December 2013 - 11:02am

History educators often encounter learners who are not as passionate about the past as they are. In mandatory history courses this is a perpetual challenge.

There are dozens of reasons to learn history, as most who regularly read this blog would surely agree. If there is one reason that may receive broad support it is to foster an ongoing relationship to the past in the people with whom we work – students, visitors, and other audiences. To make the past meaningful; to make it a place we are curious to visit, and to revisit (so-to-speak); to explain the present; to imagine a different future; and, to know who we are in the flow of time, in our ecologies, and in relations with others. These are some potential outcomes of participating in individual and collective practices of historical consciousness.

Family Histories in the Colonial Classroom

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
3 December 2013 - 4:08pm


Education about colonialism, especially in a settler society, often becomes quite personal. Not only am I, as an instructor, more aware of how I position and identify myself, but my students are also more vocal about their own subjectivities and backgrounds. This is not unique to my teaching methods; I’ve heard the same from other colleagues who teach pre- and post-confederation Canadian history. An activity that might be helpful, then, is to harness these feelings of personal interest and ask students to examine colonialism, and resistance to it, through analysis of their own family history.

Dealing with Dress-Up

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
26 November 2013 - 8:49pm

This month’s Teaching the Past blog theme dealt with using imagination to teach history, and we heard from a range of perspectives, which I hope you have enjoyed. As a museum educator, I’m often facilitating imaginative play in the galleries where I teach, particularly in the Discovery Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum. The “Try It On” section is a very popular part of the gallery, where visitors can try on helmets, a sixteenth century breast plate, a tunic, a medieval dress, an imperial Chinese court robe, a kimono, reproductions of the accoutrements of a bejewelled  Ancient Egyptian.   While I have seen first-hand the joy and excitement that dress-up can induce,  I often wonder what kind of messages we are sending about people in the past when we ask students to dress up and “become” them.

Using Imagination to Activate History

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
25 November 2013 - 4:39pm


The museum has always been a place that has activated my imagination. All I needed was a text panel to provide context and I would be transported to another era. It did not matter if the object was a Victorian dining set or a piece of a fallen meteorite – I was entranced. I still believe that the museum is an exciting place to activate the imagination for experiential learning, but a large piece of this activation depends on participatory practices. As a public historian, I am a strong advocate that the more engaging an activity is, the more rewarding and memorable the experience will be for a child. This past year I was able to put this into action in the context of museum education at Museum London as part of my Public History Master’s program at Western University.

Thinking Historically about Leisure in Toronto’s High Park

Posted by Katy Whitfield
20 November 2013 - 3:08pm

This Teaching the Past post is inspired by the last Approaching the Past event at Colborne Lodge, in High Park Toronto. TDSB teacher and OISE graduate student Katy Whitfield has created a curriculum-rich and disarmingly fun activity, using six photographs that deal with leisure and landscapes in the city of Toronto and hand-made historical thinking ‘die’[singular form of 'dice']. This lesson plan serves as a useful idea if you are wondering how to engage with the six historical thinking concepts in ways that will engage your students.

Thinking Historically about Leisure and Park Use in Toronto’s High Park by Examining Historical Photographs

A Brief Introduction to the Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts

Diary of a History TA: Why This Semester is Working

Posted by Neal Adolph
16 November 2013 - 2:26pm

Something happened to me earlier this semester that doesn’t happen often after teaching a tutorial. I was climbing the stairs from the second floor to the sixth, and wandering around the halls covered in posters of faces of famous writers, anthropologists, and political scientists. Each poster featured quotations from some brilliant-but-now-cliche thing running across profile photos in hideous 90s fonts (thank you English Department for not changing your hallway decor), and I was smiling.

Piecing Together Historical Puzzles: Using Imagination and Perspective in University History Seminars

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
8 November 2013 - 10:23am

Imagination is an exercise in perspective. Stressing with students a Lowenthal-inspired view of the past as foreign country, with an understanding of the  “pastness” of the past and the ways in which past environments are in fundamental ways different (albeit connected to) the world that surrounds us, complicates traditional uses of imaginative exercises in the university classroom. Historical “acting” – that is to say asking students to impersonate historical events and figures from the past – removes some of the critical thinking lenses expected from students studying the past at the post-secondary level. So, is there room for imagination in post-secondary history classrooms?

Of course!

Engaging Students' Imaginations in the History Classroom

Posted by Katherine Ireland
4 November 2013 - 5:04pm

Imagination in history “requires two somewhat complementary but incongruent elements: (1) an appreciation for different perspectives on human activities and beliefs; and (2) an acknowledgment of a shared humanity that transcends time, space, and culture” (Lévesque, 2011, p. 131). The role of imagination in young children’s historical thinking is not discussed in much detail in relation to the historical thinking concepts, although several researchers suggest that it is significant, some in terms of specific concepts, others in terms of historical consciousness more generally. Wineburg (2001) suggests that a sense of wonder is what motivates learners to engage in historical inquiry. Lee (2005) calls the historical thinking concepts the tools of historical imagination (p. 71).

Remember Your Teachings: An Interview with Terry Point, Musqueam Cultural Centre

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
1 November 2013 - 8:05am


 : Remember Your Teachings


Terry Point, a member of the Musqueam First Nation, and a researcher and curator at the Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Center, spoke at THEN/HiER’s regional conference at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC. His presentation was an important part of the day’s events, and he also led the evening program, Approaching the Past, at the Center, which is located on the Musqueam reserve. I spoke with Terry to hear a little bit more about his perspectives on museum work, approach to curating and interpretation, and current projects.


Cabinets of Curiosities: Teaching History Using Imagination

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
30 October 2013 - 10:00am

A class of elementary school students gather around a recreated log cabin in a county history museum. A volunteer, dressed in a long calico dress and white apron reminiscent of nineteenth century homesteaders, holds up artifacts and asks the students to guess how the objects might have been used. They don't look at all familiar and some scaffolded questions about object use and material are in order. Some of the students seem impressed by the flat iron, foot warmer, or candle moulds. They begin to talk about how different their lives would be if they had to churn their own butter, wake up in time to prepare a horse carriage, or live without a refrigerator. These kind of conversations have the potential to bring history closer to students' everyday lives. Students can think about how the daily routines of their own lives might have been different in another time, even in the same country they now call home.

History Wars Re-visited: The Battle Lines of Teaching about War in the Classroom

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
22 October 2013 - 2:18pm

I recently had the opportunity to attend a public lecture sponsored by the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society, held at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, on October 15. Guest speaker was Alan Sears, PhD, Professor of Education at the University of New Brunswick, and member of the Executive Board of THEN/HiER. His presentation was entitled “Battle Lines in the Schools: Teaching the History of War and Society for the Common Good.”

This was the first in a series of public lectures, hosted each fall by the Gregg Center. Sears seemed happily in his element, as he challenged the audience to reconsider their own pre-conceived beliefs about why we teach students about war. Watch a video of his talk.

Objects Matter: Making Histories in Museums Participatory and Decolonizing Book Resources

Posted by Elsa Lenz Kothe
21 October 2013 - 7:57pm

On the heels of a fantastic regional conference at the Museum of Anthropology on October 7, I would like to extend conference chair Kate Zankowicz’s resource list with a few additional books that reflect two of the major themes of the conference program. Considering collaborative and participatory practices in museums was one consistent thread, as was attending to Indigenous histories, objects, and relational practices, often within a decolonizing context, as Heather McGregor addressed in her blog post from October 15. With these two themes from the conference in mind, I will share very brief overviews of five recent books that are excellent resources regarding these topics.

ScopifyROM: Using Technology to Teach History in Museums

Posted by Jesika Arseneau
17 October 2013 - 2:11pm

A large portion of my academic focus has been on the integration of technology into history and culture. How can archives adjust to rapid developments in information management systems? Will museums be able to satisfy a generation that is increasingly glued to their cell phone? Can technology be brought into institutions without compromising educational integrity? These are not easy questions to answer, and I am often disappointed by the introduction of QR codes into museums. I have found myself sighing in disappointment a number of times when my attempts to use these codes have led me to small pages that repeat what is already on the text panels, uninteresting and low-quality videos, or broken links.

Indigenous Objects and Histories in Museums: THEN/HiER Regional Conference “Objects Matter…”

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
15 October 2013 - 10:51am

Last week THEN/HiER delivered a fantastic regional conference at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), University of British Columbia, Vancouver. It focused on how historians, researchers, curators, museum educators, community members, teachers and learners make histories through museums and how we make objects matter. The conference featured substantial contributions from representatives of Indigenous-focused museum projects and reflected Indigenous perspectives on history; these are the aspects of the conference that I will feature through this blog.

Military History as Agricultural History: The Importance of Interdisciplinary Approaches

Posted by Andrew McEwen
9 October 2013 - 3:05pm

  In June 2013 I had the privilege to present a paper at the Agricultural History Society conference in Banff, Alberta. The impressive breadth of subject matter and the range of papers being presented imparted to me not only how far-reaching agricultural history is, but also its utility in a number of other historical disciplines. My own studies in Canadian and military history often incorporate aspects of agricultural studies, but after this conference it is apparent to me how agriculture can be much more forcefully accentuated in the history classroom.

From the Cotton Fields to Canada: Preserving the History of Marana's Greatest Generation

Posted by Scott Catt
9 October 2013 - 2:54pm

As I sat on the breathtaking banks of Lake Louise, I pondered over just how far the story of my hometown had come. My trip to the Agricultural Historical Society’s annual meeting began with a simple desire to know more about the place I called home. In the 1960s, my little town of Marana, Arizona (positioned on the very north end of the Tucson Valley) accomplished what few biracial towns of the era were able to do. Specifically, they overcame racial differences, socioeconomic dilemmas and prevailing prejudices and hardships of the day to become the most dominant high school athletic dynasty of their state. Sports carried them from cotton fields to colleges and from ordinary students to role models for students of their alma mater today.

Do Crops Determine Culture?: The Annual Meeting of the Agricultural History Society

Posted by Jason Hauser
1 October 2013 - 10:49am

  Rather than fly into Banff, Alberta for this year’s annual meeting of the Agricultural History Society, my colleagues and I chose to drive. We shared a desire to fully experience the many landscapes that make up the 2400-mile stretch from Starkville, Mississippi to Canada’s first national park. As expected, the cross-country road trip was exciting, and we began to worry that the actual conference would pale in comparison to our action-packed, if at times arduous, journey.

Agricultural History: Crossing Borders

Posted by Rachel Kleinschmidt
25 September 2013 - 11:22am

  In June of 2013, I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Meeting of the Agricultural History Society in Banff, Alberta. As a veteran of the conference (this was my fourth time presenting), I believe Banff definitely provided the most exciting venue for the meeting, and it was the first time the meeting was held outside of the United States. I was reaching the end of my graduate school career at the time of the conference and had my thoughts turned toward teaching and incorporating agricultural and rural studies into the classroom. The sheer volume of excellent panels, roundtables, and presentations made it difficult to choose which ones to attend, but the panels I went to made me think about several important themes to focus on in teaching and researching rural history.

Teaching History Through Food: The Shelburne Farms Experience

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
24 September 2013 - 11:35am

“It’s more than just a recipe for pizza dough.”

Singing About Georgia Peaches: Lessons from the Agricultural History Society Meeting

Posted by Karen Senaga
24 September 2013 - 11:11am

The 2013 Agricultural History Society annual meeting highlighted a lot of firsts for the organization. This year, marked the first time the society held their meeting outside of the United States as well as hosting the most panelists and conference attendees on record. It proved to be four days of some of the most compelling and diverse scholarship produced by historians today.

My journey began June 8th at 6 a.m. as three other graduate students and myself drove West and said our goodbyes to Starkville, Mississippi (endearingly known as 'Starkvegas') with one destination in mind: Banff. We traveled through and across the great states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. One of the major rewards of the long journey was the conference itself.

Creating Augmented Reality Applications in History Classrooms: An Example Class Activity

Posted by Eric Poitras
11 September 2013 - 11:49am

In education, we are always looking for different ways to contextualize the material to keep our students engaged. Technology affords many opportunities to do so; in this blog post I will be discussing how to create an augmented reality by using digital media.

Augmented Reality (AR) refers to digital materials such as photos, documents, and videos that are displayed by mobile devices based on cues from the external environment. These digital materials serve as a means to augment the user experience.

The Relevance of Agricultural History to Present-Day Debates about Food Production

Posted by Andrea M. Gal
4 August 2013 - 11:20am

This June, I attended the Agricultural History Society’s Annual Meeting for the first time in my academic career. It was a thought-provoking conference, as I was surrounded by fellow scholars of rural and agricultural history. In preparation for my (first!) blog post, I read posts by other THEN/HiER members, and found Neil Adolph’s 28 May 2013 blog “What's the Role of Presentism in History Education?” particularly interesting. Ultimately, I agree with Adolph that using history to contextualize present events is both useful and important, and that we need to teach our students to think in these larger contexts. Bringing this together with my reflections on the AHS Conference, and on agricultural history more generally, I argue that such an approach would be particularly beneficial for the contemporary debates about food production and agricultural innovation.

Agricultural History: Maintaining Gains Made in the Age of Pollan

Posted by Brian Rumsey
3 July 2013 - 10:48am

Once a seemingly moribund field, agricultural history now teems with new life. Well, moribund might be a bit extreme, but around the time I started graduate school in 2007, I remember hearing members of the profession say that they had trouble generating excitement about agricultural history and had to fit their agricultural interests into other boxes. Notably, this was just as Michael Pollan’sThe Omnivore’s Dilemma began to take the country by storm, a surge that shows little sign of receding six years later. At a roundtable on agricultural history in the Age of Pollan held at this year’s meeting of the Agricultural History Society, there was general agreement that interest generated by Pollan’s work has helped turn courses on agricultural history into sought-after options in course catalogs.

Teaching Agricultural History: Lessons from the 2013 Agricultural History Society Annual Meeting

Posted by Jodey Nurse
26 June 2013 - 12:55pm

After first attending the Agricultural History Society Annual Meeting in Manhattan, Kansas, in 2012, I was eager to return for the 2013 Annual Meeting in Banff, Alberta. I found this year’s conference, like the first one I had attended, to be highly engaging and incredibly inspirational and motivational. My understanding of the topics and approaches being pursued in agricultural history was broadened because of this conference, and the feedback I received in terms of my own research projects, was indispensable. There were so many panels of interest to me that I had difficulty trying to select which panel to attend. This spoke to the quality of the papers and the salience of the topics addressed. A list of the papers given on the diverse range of topics is impossible here, but even a cursory review of the program leaves the impression that there is some very interesting work being conducted in the field of agricultural history.

My Experience at the Agricultural History Conference

Posted by Jacqueline McIsaac
26 June 2013 - 11:48am

For the first time in its ninety-four year history, the Agricultural History Society (henceforth AHS) held its annual meeting in Canada, choosing Banff, Alberta as its venue. While the AHS has traditionally maintained a strong international audience, this year’s meeting was particularly diverse, with scholars from the Netherlands, New Zealand, England, Canada, and the United States in attendance.The level of Canadian participation was unprecedented, making this an extremely useful conference for those studying Canadian topics.

The Bread Basket Case: Reflections from the Agricultural History Conference

Posted by Tad Brown
24 June 2013 - 9:12am

Why study history?  Not a historian myself, I sometimes wonder if dwelling on the past is an upstanding profession.  The Agricultural History Society conference reminded me that history, at its best, is as much about “why” as “how”.  For instance: Why did the U.S. Farm Bill become a plaything of agribusiness with a few food stamps slapped on for postage? The answer to this question requires a bit of history.  Because it matters when the Farm Bill and agribusiness came to exist, if the two are inseparable.  (This is usually where the historian begins to preamble for a few decades, leaving the rest of us feeling fatigue.) For instance, at the conference Adam Romero presented a paper about how Shell Oil applied byproducts from the synthesis of glycerol to kill nematode lodes in Hawaiian pineapple stands in the 1940s.   This predates the term agribusiness.

Blog Contest: Is It Time to Broaden the Lens of Museum Education and Consider ‘Reculturing’ in Museums Today?

Posted by Katy Whitfield
28 May 2013 - 3:27pm

Traditionally museums were places of "high" culture, places that developed during the times of the industrial revolution and during the Victorian era. They displayed models of industrial innovation as well as historical artifacts for the benefit of the working and middle classes, while also promoting cultural and nationalistic values of the nation-state. Today however, both privately and publicly funded museums are places where historical education for students and masses of tourists happens constructively, outside of the classroom. Museums are places “where we not only see evidence of the past and explore how others have interpreted it, but also where we can learn how to ‘do history for ourselves.’” (M. Christine Castle, 1).

Blog Contest:What's the Role of Presentism in History Education?

Posted by Neal Adolph
28 May 2013 - 2:07pm

When Thomas King’s An Inconvenient Indian came out this past winter, I was fascinated. Serendipitously, it was timed with the early stages of the IdleNoMore. I read the book twice. I read about the book extensively. I listened to interviews. Thomas King did something beautiful. In one interview he said the following:

“One of my complaints with a great many history books is that they imagine that history is something that happened a hundred years ago, or at least 50 years ago. And I wanted to bring this story right up to the present day. Right to now.” 

Blog Contest: How Will Current Debates Over the Politicization of History Affect What Takes Place in History Classrooms?

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
28 May 2013 - 2:02pm

Much discussion has been taking place in the past few months over the Conservative government's interest in reshaping Canadian history.  This debate is perhaps best embodied  by historian Jack Granatstein’s recent history face-off with historian Ian McKay (Warrior’s Nation, BTL, 2012) on CBC 180 (May 9, 2013),  wherein he argued that it was time to tell the "Conservative side" of history. The politicizing of history is not new but it does challenge the careful and critical work of historians. History, like other disciplines, is open to different interpretations and debate and reflective of changes over time.  The 1960s saw the inclusion of social histories that included narratives about the working class, and other groups who had previously been marginalized or omitted in historical examinations.

Blog Contest: Is Teaching History “for Social Justice” Working Well for Indigenous Students?

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
28 May 2013 - 9:22am

It is common to hear that teachers should be concerned about social justice, and teach to enhance it in Canadian society and beyond. Indeed, many dedicated and sensitive teachers are doing excellent work to address issues many people would associate with social justice, and the history classroom is often a place to consider this theme and the questions it raises. The study of the past inevitably provides case studies of violations of human relationships and the efforts of communities to renew and reconstruct those relationships.

Does the "Nation" Shape the Consciousness of the People?

Posted by Stéphane Lévesque
30 May 2013 - 1:33pm

In 1882, Ernest Renan claimed that a nation is “a daily plebiscite;” its existence depends on a perpetual affirmation of shared beliefs among its members to live and continue to live together. Individuals play a crucial role in contributing to the nation and giving meaning to it. Recent works in social psychology and historical consciousness have come to the conclusion that individuals are in fact “group beings” whose identities are strongly influenced by social structures, norms, language, and collective identity.  Individual beliefs and personal differences do matter in thinking the nation, but they only tell half the story.

Using the Past to Shape the Future

Posted by Katherine Joyce
28 May 2013 - 1:34pm
History is about the future. We study to past the learn about our present and how we can achieve the future we want, both as individuals and as a community. 
We live in an unjust society. There is no true equality of opportunity. Equity measures are often seen as frills. But it does not have to be that way. Many people are working incredibly hard to bring change and to create a more equitable society.
History teachers have the power to aid those working for social justice. By incorporating the history of as many groups as possible into their lessons, teachers can create a past within the nation, province, or community for all of their students, not just those who can fit themselves into a hegemonic history. 

Social Justice in Museums?

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
21 May 2013 - 10:49am

History is often riddled with conflict, disagreement, and injustice. Many museums work hard to present difficult histories in ways that encourage empathy and remembrance, while providing visitors with a link to current struggles. Visitors may experience difficult histories through objects, photographs, text, audio-guides, tours, living history experiences, programming and more. Some museums ask visitors to imagine what an individual's life might have been like, or compare narratives from exhibits with their own experiences. Some use new technologies and interactives, while others are more subdued, focusing on pictures, quotes, or statistics. 

Voting, History Education and Social Justice

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
11 May 2013 - 9:33am

Earlier this week, I went in to the Tzeachten Community Center to cast my ballot in the advance polls for the BC election. The irony of voting at a First Nations administrative office for an election in a province that has a history of exceptionally unjust treatment of Indigenous peoples has had me thinking a lot about elections, social justice, and Canadian history.

Dairy of a History TA: Thesis Time, E-mail Time, Me Time

Posted by Neal Adolph
6 May 2013 - 4:29pm

My semester is over. I finished marking my students’ finals in record time and chained myself to my desk on some beautiful Vancouver spring day in the process. However, I’m no longer a Teaching Assistant. I have graduated to the much-more-impoverished position of Former Teaching Assistant. Although being unemployed does not excite me at all, I appreciate the opportunity to focus on my own work a bit more.

For many of us, being a teaching assistant comes at the definite cost of distracting us from our work. This has the adverse effect of potentially keeping us in the program longer, which makes it less and less likely for us to receive financial aid or teaching assistant positions. So we need to find the balance between teaching and getting our own work done.

Inventing the Future: What Does Increased Technology Use Mean for “Doing” History in the Classroom?

Posted by Katherine Ireland
2 May 2013 - 11:52am

At a 1971 meeting between the Palo Alto Research Centre and Xerox, Alan Kay uttered the famous statement: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” This isn’t the full quotation of course, and taken out of context it could be viewed and used in various ways. When I read it I thought of history education, and that understanding the past is key to seeing a future for oneself. Keith Barton and Linda Levstik (2004; 2011) as well as Peter Seixas (1993) emphasize this in some of their research. One of my favourite quotations on this topic comes from Amy von Heyking’s (2011) chapter in New Possibilities for the Past:

“Although I don't know much about it now, I really want to know more about my family”: How Students Understand the Past

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
29 April 2013 - 7:00am

      After 15 adventurous weeks of classroom fieldwork, I am nearing the end of the data collection phase of my research.  It’s been an invigorating experience, working with a group of five community history museum volunteers, as well as 24 grade seven students, and their teacher, to explore how a heritage community can assist middle school students in deepening their historical consciousness. By “deepening”, of course, I am referring to Jörn Rüsen’s (1993, 2004) typology of historical consciousness—in particular, what Rüsen has labeled as a “genetic” sense of how we know what we [think we] know, and how this relates to our temporal relationship with the past.

Techy Tools for Teachers

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
19 April 2013 - 1:23pm

Using technology, either as a historian or a teacher, can be wonderfully helpful or hugely frustrating. Everyone has stories about fighting with their word processor, or being unable to upload files as needed, or being confounded by glitchy USB keys. And while, despite these occasional setbacks, some of us embrace these new technologies for the benefits they offer, others remain passionately low-tech: pen and paper is still the note-taking method of choice for many colleagues of mine. But whether you’re a student or a teacher, it’s clear, our lives are becoming increasingly intertwined with new technologies.

Diary of a History TA: The Value of Feedback

Posted by Neal Adolph
9 April 2013 - 12:50pm

   I’m never sure how to offer writing feedback to my students.

The Integration of Multiple Perspectives in Secondary History and Social Studies

Posted by Laurence Abbott
8 April 2013 - 12:52pm

Integrating multiple perspectives into history and social studies education presents a range of challenges for teachers and students. Perspectives are complex and perspective communities, particularly when we speak about national, religious, cultural, ethnic, or linguistic groups, are diverse and multi-faceted. Perspectives are tied to ways of knowing and living in the world. They are ideological, and gendered, and they are socio-economically, geographically, and temporally situated. Perspectives have a past, present, and future, and these intersect and overlap in a multiplicity of ways with the interests and perspectives of other perspective communities.

Making History Meaningful

Posted by Tom Morton
5 April 2013 - 2:38pm

"I think that it is in the curriculum because people need to learn about it."


"To get a bit about ancient stuff into your brain."


"I don't know or care."


A recent survey of 1,700 English students aged 11 to 14 asked them if they found history to be useful. The good news was that almost 70 percent said that it was. The bad news was that few could articulate why it was useful. Typical answers were like those above.

Incorporating Multiple Perspectives in Elementary History Teaching

Posted by Katherine Ireland
29 March 2013 - 6:44am

Something I struggle with when getting feedback from colleagues on my work doing history in the elementary grades is the assumption that in doing history with young students, historical content doesn’t matter. It usually goes something like this: I’ll bring up the challenge of taking historical perspectives and what this might look like in a group of K-2 students. What links can I make to the curriculum in the lesson? What historical story is a good example, and can I find enough evidence to work with non-readers? The response is usually something like, why not have the students talk about what happened in class this morning and get their classmates’ perspectives, or have them ask family members for different accounts of a summer holiday?

Making History Class More Interesting: Using Multiple Perspectives to Teach World War II

Posted by Katherine Joyce
26 March 2013 - 10:50am

Recently, a group of high school students I was working with told me how boring they find history class, especially Canadian history. Now, I must admit that although I have heard this sentiment expressed many times over the years, it just about broke my Canadian history-loving heart. So I asked some questions: what were the students learning about? Why did they find it boring?

Challenging the Big Ideas of History

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
16 March 2013 - 9:01am

In a journal article that I have yet to find anywhere to publish, I have argued that history education must begin with Big Questions rather than Big Ideas.  In this context I have posed the somewhat dubious question: when adopting historical thinking outcomes as a way of engaging students in the past, should we be enabling students to ask Big Questions (which are the foundation of source-based inquiry), or should we be directing them towards the Big Ideas that embrace such subjects as social cohesion and national identity?

Using Political Cartoons in the Classroom

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
15 March 2013 - 8:37am

This blog entry is dedicated to the "Great Man of Canadian History Teaching" Mr. Charles Hou, who is a great inspiration to all Canadian history teachers who aim to engage their students in the study of Canadian history by "doing history." Whether it was week-long hikes along fur brigade trails, creating and organizing the Begbie Canadian History Contest, conducting mock trials and costumed debates at the B.C. Legislative buildings, Charles made history come alive for students in a way that it has always has for him. Despite the numerous teaching awards, including the Hilroy National Award for Great Merit in 1986, and the Governor General's Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Canadian History in 1996, Charles' legacy to the teaching of Canadian history will always be political cartoons. 

Diary of a History TA: Challenging Students' Assumptions about the Past

Posted by Neal Adolph
12 March 2013 - 7:55am


My seminars have presented me with an odd challenge this semester. I am teaching a course in which I have very little background. I am teaching students who have already learned about all of the content before. I am teaching students who are nearly entirely from another country. And I’m teaching students who are dedicated to their reading and their work and their learning. I suppose this is what happens when you are teaching the history of China from 1800 in a city like Greater Vancouver (where, I was recently informed, the dominant conversational language is now Mandarin).

Incorporating Multiple Perspectives: What about the North?

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
11 March 2013 - 11:41am

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring Indigenous perspectives into learning communities in ways that are responsible, respectful, reciprocal and relevant (Barnhardt & Kirkness, 1991). To me, it is equally important to emphasize the importance of making space for northern Canadian perspectives in history education.

Cause(s) and Consequence(s)

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
10 March 2013 - 6:36pm

Hindsight is 20/20…or so it seems.

The study of the past sometimes presents us with a false sense of comfort: the idea that looking back now, we could have anticipated or predicted the outcome of past situations. It can be easy to believe we have a superior sense of knowing about the past and how certain processes sorted themselves out. Much like watching a favourite serial drama and then racing to view the next episode after a "cliffhanger" moment, history is looked to for answers to some big questions about our past and about human nature more generally. For some, history provides a sense that there was an order to things in the past, that there were clear links between events and outcomes, and that loose ends are always tied up.

Tl’o Tem Wiyothtset – It’s Always Our Time

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
5 March 2013 - 12:18pm

Driving along Highway 1 from Vancouver towards Chilliwack, BC, can be beautiful on a clear day; the route leads you away from the coast, takes you over the Fraser River, and eventually, deposits you in the middle of the Fraser Valley, on flat plains ringed by mountains. Though the drive affords some stunning views of the landscape, the predominant sight you glimpse as your car hurtles along the concrete corridor that unites Canada from sea to sea is a serial procession of tacky advertisements emblazoned on large billboards, looming over the speeding vehicles. Over the past few years, however, new billboards have been cropping up around Chilliwack, and these ones are…different.

Teachable Moments: Online Exhibitions

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
26 February 2013 - 3:19pm

In previous posts, I wrote about the potential of objects to make the people, places, and events of the past feel closer and more real.  These encounters can offer teachable moments, and provide unique and memorable learning experiences. They can lead learners to new questions and generate discussion. Sometimes, however, these physical encounters are not possible.  A history class might not have the funding to visit a museum in person. The relevant objects might be located in museums across oceans, or be too fragile to handle, or even too fragile to display.  

What Does it Mean to Be "Historically Literate"?

Posted by Stéphane Lévesque
19 February 2013 - 1:31pm

In a recent blog post (The War of 1812: Notes on Students' Ideas), I argued that what makes historians experts is not so much their vast historical content knowledge but their “historical literacy”, that is their ability to read, write, and think critically about the past.  Nowadays, there is a widespread talk in education about the need for critical literacy skills. In this information age, being able to think critically about a range of social media and text forms, including prints, graphics,visuals and electronic texts, is becoming vital to an educated citizenry. It is no surprise that Ministries of education across the country have responded with policy documents, reports, and learning resources “to enable students to make meaning from and in the wide range of texts they will encounter and produce at school and in the world.”[1]


Teachable Moments: Teaching History When Current Events Strike!

Posted by Katherine Joyce
18 February 2013 - 4:06pm

History can seem like a foreign country to many students, a country which they do not have any interest in visiting. As a teacher, making history relevant to students may be one of your most important, and often difficult, tasks. Opportunities constantly arise which allow you to connect the past to the present — you just have to be able to see them and be willing to modify your lesson plans to use them!

Read/Review/Respond Blog: Third Post

Posted by Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer
28 February 2013 - 6:05pm

Penney Clark’s newly edited collection of essays in New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada was the first book that was used for the Read/Review/Respond blog.  In response to Katherine Ireland’s blog post, I would argue that it is difficult to know if new scholarship in the field of history education will be perceived as a “trend” by teachers in the classroom or as a “purposeful evolution” predominantly because of the ongoing gaps that occur between policy and practice. Policies tend to reflect changes in academic scholarship in the field as well as governmental responses to a variety of social, political and economic issues, but that doesn’t always reflect what takes place in classrooms.  We don’t know to what extent teachers fully follow current curriculum philosophies.

What’s Love Got To Do With It? Historicizing Emotion in the Past

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
16 February 2013 - 2:36pm

With all the Valentine’s Day festivities fresh in our minds, perhaps now is a perfect time to talk about love and emotion – in the historical sense, of course.

History of Education as "Active History"?: A Blog Response

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
15 February 2013 - 4:02pm

Jason Ellis' piece The History of Education as "Active History": A Cautionary Tale? was published on in September. Read a THEN-HiER member response from Rose Fine-Meyer below. Click on the Read More button to read the whole piece.

My dissertation research revealed the complexities of education systems and the ways in which educational policies represent only one aspect of what takes place in schools. Even curriculum policies are interpreted or reinterpreted to address individual schools needs. But most revealing in my research was the ways in which individual teachers, put policy into practice. Teachers, as members of multiple personal and professional organizations, choose in what ways to deliver curriculum, and this often reflects their own activism or position towards educational theories and policies.

The Trials and Triumphs of Writing a History of Museum Education: Interpreting the Thank You Note

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
13 February 2013 - 1:02pm

As I mentioned in my last blog post, getting at what teachers were teaching in museums can be a tricky enterprise. I recently came across a packet of letters from students thanking Ella Martin for their tour of the Royal Ontario Museum in the early 1960s in the ROM archive. As a pedagogical exercise in letter-writing itself, the children’s letters are quite formal. However, between the formality of the “I hope we weren’t any trouble for you” or “I must close this letter” lines, students did comment meaningfully about their experiences. Because there exists little evidence of what museum education was like, as lived experience, these letters provide important glimpses of how and what students learned at the Royal Ontario Museum during the early 1960s.

The Trials and Triumphs of Writing a History of Museum Education: Adventures in the Archives Continued

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
8 February 2013 - 3:06pm

My last blog post discussed the trials and triumphs of trying to write a history of museum education about an institution that has not consciously collected its educational history. Very little evidence exists in the Royal Ontario Museum’s archive that illustrates how museum educators used museum collections and exhibits to teach, their pedagogical techniques, what they taught, or what they were like, as educators or as people. This week, however, contained a small but significant victory.

Not Very Neutral on Teacher Neutrality

Posted by Laurence Abbott
4 February 2013 - 6:04pm

I often encounter pleasing, surprising, and startling learning moments in my curriculum and teaching courses and I try to turn as many of these into pedagogic opportunities for my students. I have encountered a multitude of learning moments in the five years I have been teaching undergraduate courses in social studies curriculum, and these encounters have helped me to realize that engaging teaching is really an ongoing series of such moments. While the novelty of grand-narrative-awareness, for example, has long ago passed for me, I am fascinated with how my students cope with its novelty, especially how it complicates and potentially implicates them in the story they have long taken to be fundamentally and universally true.

"Talking Historically": Using Performance to Develop Young Students' Historical Thinking

Posted by Katherine Ireland
25 January 2013 - 9:14am

My history work with young students has been almost exclusively focused on oral rather than written language. As the K-2 students I have worked with are still learning to read, reading and writing were not going to be effective methods of historical inquiry. I had to search for methods of doing history that engaged them in what Barton and Levstik (2011) call “talking historically” (p. 24). I relied heavily on their 2011 book Doing History: Investigating with Children in Elementary and Middle Schools (4th ed.) because I had found so little research on doing history with young students before they’ve learned to read. They point out that with a historical text, only so much information can be gleaned, whereas conversation offers greater depth for practicing the skills needed in historical investigation:

How Does ‘Seeing’ the Past Intersect with Historical Thinking?: The Use of Art and Photography in the Classroom

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
24 January 2013 - 11:18am

With use of multimedia becoming more common in history classrooms, how can visual artifacts or sources such as photographs and art works be used to support, extend, or even complicate historical thinking? Grasping and keeping students’ attention is one thing -- assessing for the way students use these sources in historical analysis is another! This question can be particularly challenging when entering into a space of “difficult history” or historical trauma, such as residential schools history in Canada (see my previous blog). For example, in the Nunavut and NWT residential schools history program, students are asked to analyze a picture of a sculpture by a northern artist, Abraham Anghik Ruben, who is also a residential schools survivor.

The Historian as Archivist and Archives as Historical Practice: The Archive of Lesbian Oral Testimony

Posted by Danielle Cooper
23 January 2013 - 11:16am

In her blog post for THEN/Hier on December 21, “Looking for Ruth Home: The Trials and Triumphs of Writing a History of Museum Education,” Kate Zankowicz described how the lack of archival documentation on her research topic, women's roles in museum pedagogy, has necessitated her to turn to other sources for her research, most notably, oral history interviews. Those pursuing lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBT) history have faced similar obstacles when looking to the archival record and also often rely on oral history methods for data collection (see, for example, Kennedy and Davis’ Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold or Marc Stein’s City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves). As LGBT studies become increasingly popular in the academy, furthermore, there is now opportunity for scholars of LGBT subject matter to transform their research projects (including oral histories) into LGBT archives in the academy.


Killing Socrates with Coffee: Memories and the Joy of Pretending

Posted by Jennie Fiddes
22 January 2013 - 11:20am

When I was a child, my class reenacted the trial of Socrates. It was one of our history lessons - we were learning about ancient cultures and customs and we were in the midst of our Ancient Greece and Rome unit.

Quick refresher: Socrates (469-399 BC) was an Athenian philosopher who was charged with “corrupting the youth” and “failing to acknowledge the gods”by teaching philosophy using methods that many others disapproved of amidst a great deal of local politics and suspicious oracular proclamations. He was declared guilty after a trial by jury and was sentenced to death via hemlock.

Diary of a History TA: Lies I Have Been Told about the First Week

Posted by Neal Adolph
15 January 2013 - 1:38pm

I’m not sure about you, but I have been told lies about being a teaching assistant. “Your professor is going to give you all the supports that you need.” “The students will come prepared if you tell them that they are expected to.” “It doesn’t take long to respond to e-mails.” And, as I had a successful first week in my seminars and am now preparing for my second week, I find myself running up against the first lie that I was ever told about seminars: the first week is the most important.

Acting it Out: Engaging with History Through Performance

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
10 January 2013 - 2:37pm

As an elementary school student who loved history, I was often asked by less enthusiastic classmates why I liked such a "boring" subject. History educators in schools and museums are consistently confronting this conception of history as being dull. One of the primary complaints I would hear was that history felt distant and disconnected from students' lives, and that it was little more than a series of dates, places, and names.

One possibility for increasing student or visitor engagement is to take history off paper, and bring it to life. Costumed interpreters do this daily, as do actors in historically themed movies and plays, but it can also be done by visitors or students themselves.

Difficult Histories, Difficult Presents

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
8 January 2013 - 4:56pm

Since the beginning of December 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across North America (Turtle Island) have gathered together to protest ongoing colonial injustice towards Indigenous peoples. Under the leadership of four women (Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson, and Sheelah Mclean) and inspired by the bravery of Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat, individuals in Canada and the United States are standing together. The similarities between Idle No More and the Occupy movement have already been drawn, and commentators have also begun to refer to this series of protests and flash mobs as the Native Winter, an echo of the Arab Spring movement that rippled across the Middle East earlier this year.

Teaching Difficult Histories: Complexity is Compelling

Posted by Katherine Ireland
7 January 2013 - 12:28pm

Even before I was a teacher, my sense was that histories that aren’t presented as set in stone are always the most interesting. Histories that students can explore for themselves, where they can discover and investigate conflicting accounts, are the most compelling. Yet this sense isn’t always shared by others in public forums who have significant power to decide which histories are privileged, from teachers to policy makers.

Looking for Ruth Home: The Trials and Triumphs of Writing a History of Museum Education

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
21 December 2012 - 12:04pm

It took me years to find a photo of her at the Royal Ontario Museum. In the end, the fabulous technician at the institutional archives, with the use of some miraculous search term that I would never have thought of, found the photograph. This is the only photo that exists of her in the ROM archive.

Conversations on New Possibilities for the Future : A Virtual Interview with Viviane Gosselin, PhD.

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
10 December 2012 - 7:43pm

Last spring, I had the opportunity to engage in a “virtual chat” with the curator of contemporary issues at the Museum of Vancouver, Viviane Gosselin.  Viviane is also author of chapter 12 in New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada (2011).

During the interview, Viviane chats about her current curatorial project, “Sex Talk in the City”, as well as the role of historical narratives in presenting alternative perspectives upon the present.  She provides great insight into the eclectic nature of museum work – rebounding between curatorial meetings, telephone conversations, conference presentations, and family commitments. Near the end of the interview, Viviane shifts her attention towards historical thinking in museums and writes of the necessity for “porous narratives” within museum exhibitions.

Commemorating the Mundane: The Local Public School

Posted by Katherine Joyce
5 December 2012 - 7:28pm

The commemoration of historical events, places, or people often focuses on those which are easily recognized as playing an important role in generally accepted national narratives. Although it is important to recognize these events, places, and people and their role in the ‘building the nation,’ most people do not live lives that easily connect to this kind of history. However, everyone does live a life connected to history, and so it is worthwhile when considering the role of commemoration in the building of historical consciousness to also explore how the more mundane events, places, and people of history are memorialized across the country with your students.

The War of 1812: Notes on Students' Ideas

Posted by Stéphane Lévesque
5 December 2012 - 3:02pm


What should students know and do with the War of 1812?

Canadian students spend considerable time learning about history. By the time they graduate from high school they have learned about the Roman Empire, the coureurs des bois, medieval societies, feminism, the Holocaust, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, September 11 terrorism and, of course, the War of 1812. Their courses also make explicit references to notions of “historical thinking,” “literacy,” and “inquiry”. But, as in many jurisdictions, current history programs in the province of Ontario do not necessarily develop in any progressive way beyond the mere chronological accumulation of facts. The result is that students have no structured opportunity to develop their abilities to think critically about history, at least not in the way curriculum guidelines are designed.

Remembering the Triangle Fire

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
4 December 2012 - 12:18pm

On March 25, 1911, 146 Triangle Waistcoast Factory workers, mostly young female immigrants, were killed in a fire that broke out moments before the end of the work day. The tragedy was exacerbated by poor safety conditions, including locked fire escapes, and many victims jumped to their deaths as horrified New Yorkers looked on. This event served as a catalyst for the labor movement and hastened the improvement of workplace safety in the United States. 2011 marked the 100 year anniversary of the fire, and the city of New York remembered those who had perished and those who survived in a variety of ways, emphasizing the relevance and impact of the event today.

How Can We Get Ready for Difficult Histories?

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
30 November 2012 - 8:09pm

In my last post I introduced the completion and launch of a grade 10 social studies program The Residential School System in Canada: Understanding the Past - Seeking Reconciliation - Building Hope for Tomorrow for schools in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Our Teaching the Past blog has featured pieces about teaching residential schools history in the past (see Katherine Joyce's blog).  In the new grade 10 social studies northern program  there are 12 activities within the 25-hour  program.

National Institutions and the Reshaping of Canadian History

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
23 November 2012 - 8:18pm

Although Canadian "history wars" are usually fought within academic realms, recent federal initiatives have made tangible the broader struggle over national memory and collective identity. Overhauls of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC), new passport designs, and the controversial $100 bill, not to mention massive cuts to Library and Archives Canada (LAC), and a multi-million dollar campaign to celebrate the War of 1812, have generated significant debate and caught the attention of Canadians more than historical dilemmas usually do.

Building a Curriculum of Remembrance

Posted by Laurence Abbott
21 November 2012 - 6:18pm

Remembrance should not be just a once-per-year assembly and moment of silence event, but woven deliberately into the everyday curriculum. Further, remembrance as an act of teaching and learning needs to be extended to all of the fronts and spaces where human conflict causes and precipitates death, destruction, relocation and other war-related consequences.

How Do You Remember People Who Leave No Trace?

Posted by Jennie Fiddes
18 November 2012 - 10:19am


The problem with the recording of past is that it is almost completely lost. Only the tinniest fraction of information survives the ravages of time. We might find brief glimpses of the past by finding a forgotten toy, a published book, a carefully preserved painting, a dropped arrowhead or a pot in a grave. We use these bits and pieces to try and create a shadowy image of the past but it will always be fragmentary at best. The vast majority people who lived (and their prized possessions) will never been seen or heard from again.

As I excavate archaeological sites all over the world, I am often floored by this concept. We will never know most people in the past. We will never know their names. We will never know what they liked, what they hated, whom they loved and whom they lost. Nothing. They are gone and left nothing behind for us to see.

Except for one thing: us.  The people of the past had children. Their children had children. And here we are today.

Read-Review-Respond Blog II: "Historical Thinking in the Museum"

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
15 November 2012 - 1:11pm

While many of the chapters in Penney Clark's edited collection, New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada, discuss classroom learning, Viviane Gosselin's chapter, “Historical Thinking in the Museum: Open to Interpretation” challenges readers to think about history education in a museum setting. Gosselin reminds readers that “museums are one of the few public institutions mandated to facilitate lifelong learning about the collective past” (246).  When people are no longer in school, they will still encounter history in museums. Museums are uniquely challenging learning spaces because they are sites of informal history learning: the museum experience is less structured than the classroom, and museum educators do not have as much time to teach and assess learners as school teachers do.Visitors also respond to a diverse range of teaching strategies, and they also represent a variety of ages, backgrounds, and prior knowledge.

Read Review Respond Blog Series - Post 1: Is our conception of history education “evolving” or is today’s focus simply a historical trend once again in vogue?

Posted by Katherine Ireland
27 March 2012 - 2:12pm


The first of four blog posts Reviewing the edited collection New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada (UBC Press) and Responding to the question: "Is our conception of history education “evolving” or is today’s focus simply a historical trend once again in vogue?"

Lost and Found

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
5 November 2012 - 4:33pm


Every year around Remembrance Day I buy poppies and I lose poppies.

Immortalized in a variety of ways, including that infamous poem In Flanders Fields jotted down by Dr. John McCrae amidst the mud and mire of the Western Front, poppies are still pinned to lapels, assembled by schoolchildren, and laid in wreaths on Remembrance Day. Poppies are a tangible symbol of memory, a process that is often quite abstract. And Remembrance Day, which commemorates the armistice which ended the Great War on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in the year 1918, is a touch point for Canadians to recognize the sacrifice and service of those in the armed forces both in the past and in the present.

 But what does it mean to lose a poppy (or two)?

Many Characters, Many Voices: Using First-Person Interpretation to Present Varied Perspectives

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
31 October 2012 - 10:08am


It is rare to hear two people tell a story the same way, even when both of them were present when it happened. People have varied perspectives, memories, and experiences, and may find different parts of the same story the most exciting or important. While relating a story, I've known friends or relatives jump in with phrases like, “You left out the best part!” or “that's not quite what they said,” or “you may not have known at the time, but...”. When we have conversations, we are often negotiating our  perspectives, and I believe that the presentation of history often creates a similar situation.


Implementing Diversity in the Classroom?

Posted by Katherine Ireland
7 November 2012 - 1:30pm


I was thinking about how odd the term “implementing diversity” sounds in a classroom context, as though it isn’t already there. Some classrooms are certainly less diverse than others, and diversity is not acknowledged to the degree that it could be, but it is there.  In a unit I taught for my Master’s research study, I hoped to draw out the notion of diversity through the topic of immigration in Canada between 1865 and 1914.


The idea for this topic stems from my reaction to a particular outcome in the New Brunswick K-2 curriculum which integrates science, health, and social studies, called You and Your World.  In Unit 4 of the Grade One Curriculum, which is called Communities, the social studies outcomes state that students will:

1.4.1 Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding that the way people live in their community evolves over time;

1.4.3 recognize that Aboriginal peoples’ relationship with place has changed over time;

Report from the Last Day of the Colloque International at Laval

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
29 October 2012 - 9:33pm

Here's a run-down on what happened on the final day of the Colloque international des didactiques de l'histoire, de la geographie et de l'education a la citoyennete (The International Didactics of History, Geography and Citizenship Education Symposium).

 Cate Duquette’s talk at the round table underlined that there is a progression of historical consciousness, which makes assessment difficult. Stephane Levesque’s talk at the roundtable, on the use of the past for future teachers, found that at the University of Ottawa, teachers-in- training ranked historical thinking highly in their rationales of why they teach history. In contrast, students surveyed from Quebec universities saw identity formation as one of the most important rationales. Other interesting findings were the preference for lectures as delivery formats, the rank of textbooks and archives as reliable sources, while the internet was not considered reliable.

Report from the Colloque International of Didactics of History, Geography and Citizenship Education

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
29 October 2012 - 5:52pm

Greetings again from the University of Laval.

Here are some highlights from the conference (Colloque International):

Hilary Cooper’s teleconferenced talk dealt with constructivist approaches for history teaching in primary schools. In particular she linked constructivist thought with the historical process itself and provided case studies that exemplified how using constructivist processes of inquiry can be used to encourage young students to think more deeply about the past in terms of ‘what they know’, ‘what they guess’ and ‘what they’d like to know’.

Report from theThen-Hier Graduate Student Conference in Quebec City

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
25 October 2012 - 9:26pm

We had a very stimulating day at “History and Emotion: Between Collective Memory and Historical Thinking”, a graduate THEN-HiER sponsored conference at the University of Laval in Quebec City.

The day began with a keynote address by Dr. Carla Peck who examined the importance of providing historical context to history teaching as well as an analysis of levels of historical thinking. Subsequent presentations were made by Chantal Rivard and Marc-Andre Lauzon, practicing teachers in Quebec who shared their pedagogical insights.

The second half of the morning was devoted to museum-based history pedagogy and included Alain Frechette, from the Stewart Museum in Montreal, who sported a kilt and spoke about Scottish and Irish heritage in Quebec.

Resources for Teaching Historical Thinking in the Classroom

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
23 October 2012 - 12:33am

I  recently presented a one-hour workshop at the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers' Association Conference entitled Rights and Responsibilities: Thinking and Acting Locally and Globally. My presentation Resources for Teaching Historical Thinking in the Classroom focused on introducing teachers to seven new resources that will help them institute historical thinking in their classes. I chose one historical thinking resource from each of the following categories:

  1. Introduction to historical thinking (print, digital)
  2. Primary source collections (print, digital)
  3. Historical thinking lesson plans
  4. Historical thinking online game
  5. Assessing historical thinking


Can I Teach History and Just Avoid the Difficult Stuff?

Posted by Laurence Abbott
4 November 2012 - 2:51pm

A couple of years ago I had a group of students who complained about what they felt was too much of a feel-bad-eurocritial-apology-demanding curriculum in social studies.  They wondered why it was that the social studies and history concepts and content we talked about in social studies curriculum courses seem to offer an overly critical self-loathing vision of Canada that differed from the pleasant self-laudatory one they encountered in school and from TV commercials. Their Canada as peace-keeper to the world and multicultural, agrarian, rugged, beautiful, frontier wonderland could not be the same Canada of residential schools, the "Indian" Act, the Komagata Maru, and the head tax to limit Chinese immigration. These visions of our country are seemingly irreconcilable binary renderings of the past and present.

Creating an Environment that Supports Diversity

Posted by Thomas Peace
20 October 2012 - 6:55am


A couple of weeks ago I was discussing teaching Aboriginal history with a colleague.  We had both heard stories from some Aboriginal students who at some point in their education had heard their people discussed in the high school and university classroom in a derogatory manner. Aside from the sad news that racism is still alive and well in some of our classrooms, the person with whom I had a conversation - someone with much more teaching experience than I - emphasized that often these concerns are not directly addressed with the teacher and professor.

The “Problem of Opinion”

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
15 October 2012 - 8:34am

We know students enter classrooms with historical baggage. 

People pick up information about the past in a variety of contexts and through a variety of media. The past is talked about in the home through shared family experiences and stories. The History Channel churns out hours of programming covering everything from ancient volcano eruptions to modern-day warfare. Large volumes of books, magazines, and newspaper articles talk about and reference past events in current contexts. Students don’t check their previous knowledge of the past at the door. They bring into the classroom with them, and it influences their writings and their participation in discussions. 

Yet historical baggage, or that accumulation of what people “know” about the past, isn’t always necessarily accurate.

Implementing Diversity through Aboriginal Territory Acknowledgements

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
8 October 2012 - 1:16pm

“I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, Stó:lõ, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.” This is how I began my first tutorial session when I began work as a Teaching Assistant this fall.

In preparing my lesson plans for the first week, I couldn’t help but remember a back-to-school season less than a decade ago, when I was a first-year undergrad. Then, as a high school liberal arts keener, I had arrived at university able to debate the ethics of an unelected federal senate, explain in detail the workings of the seigneurial system, and discuss what events like the Komagata Maru incident and the internment of Japanese Canadians demonstrated about the Canadian state. But (through no fault of my teachers, who I know did a lot with very little) I had never heard of the 1969 White Paper, knew nothing of the significance of Bill C-31, and had no idea that BC was largely not treatied.

Queering the History Classroom

Posted by Katherine Joyce
4 October 2012 - 7:10pm

In the summer of 2011 the California legislature passed a law amending the state’s education code. This law extended existing prohibitions of discriminatory content to include sexual minority groups, persons with disabilities, and members of other cultural groups. In addition, it “require[d] instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans […] to the development of California and the United States.”

Bringing Residential Schools History into Northern Schools

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
29 September 2012 - 10:31am

Tuesday October 2, 2012 is an important day in the history of education in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories: the two territorial governments, in partnership with the Legacy of Hope Foundation, are launching a 10th grade social studies program on the history of residential schools that will become required learning for every northern student. This week teachers from across the North are gathered in Yellowknife to be introduced to the materials.

Touching the Past: Using Archaeology to Make History Tangible

Posted by Jennie Fiddes
27 September 2012 - 6:00pm

Archaeologists are known for the physical objects that we discover – whether it is a small arrowhead, a long forgotten coin or toy, or the shadow remains of an Iroquoian longhouse. Yet there is a vast misunderstanding of what archaeology entails and why it is relevant to the general education of children and adults alike.

As a professional archaeologist, I routinely hear surprised comments from adults who don’t realize that Canada has a robust archaeology scene at all. They often assume that we dig up dinosaurs (to the lament of archaeologists and paleontologists alike). The disregard of approximately 12,000 years of human habitation demonstrates a disturbing lack of archaeological awareness in our country.

The Double Meaning of Strawberries: Teaching the Multiple Meanings of Objects

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
26 September 2012 - 5:16pm

As a museum educator who is often called upon to teach using First Nations collections, I have grappled with expressing the different knowledges at play in the colonial space of a museum gallery. My personal goal as an educator in a museum is to frame my “lesson” (often an informal conversation) by interrogating the epistemological space of the museum itself: I never position the museum as the purported ‘expert’, the purveyor of absolute truth or as the hallowed ‘preserver’ of culture.

Please Touch: Why Objects Matter

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
24 September 2012 - 8:45am

Please do not touch” signs are a predictable sight in many history museums.  These signs are among the necessary precautions taken to preserve artifacts, but not all artifacts need to be conserved, and many history museums are able to use historic objects in programming. Holding or using an artifact can make history feel real and close. Object experiences can encourage connections, promote curiosity and excitement, and help create memorable learning experiences.

Learning Difficult Lessons from a School Desk

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
19 September 2012 - 12:03pm

"What's a desk doing in the gallery?"



Artifacts and Collections Readily-at-Hand

Posted by Laurence Abbott
16 September 2012 - 4:46pm

In my role as a teacher educator specializing in social studies curriculum, I do not get a lot of opportunity to take students to museums or to explore the collections held by my university. Yet I certainly appreciate the role that encounters with objects, collections, spaces and places plays in vivifying social studies and history education content and concepts.  I have long been fascinated with the notion of touching the past, and I bring that passion for encountering the past in the present to my current teaching practice.

OBJECTifying the Past: Using Objects to Talk about Past and Present

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
10 September 2012 - 3:26pm

Images can be objects, too.

This year, I invited undergraduate students in an introduction to Canadian History course to analyze some of the most iconic images of the twentieth century: posters from the First and Second World Wars. These images inundate popular culture and help form our own conceptions of the conflicts and of the century. Think of the pointing figure of Lord Kitchener demanding “Britons Want You,” or of Rosie the Riveter encouraging American women that “We Can Do It.”

Canadian War Museum, Artifact Number 1972008-007


Teaching Early-Canadian History with Objects and Collections

Posted by Thomas Peace
9 September 2012 - 10:56am

This month's blog theme is about learning from objects and collections. Below are some of the resources and collections that I have found useful in teaching early-Canadian history.


Here are  two helpful non-digital resources:

Canoeing through Stó:lõ Territories: Sepass Canoes and Object Lessons

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
6 September 2012 - 7:42am




Bill, Dave, Kevin and I stood in the middle of a silent longhouse in Mission, BC, staring up at an object hanging from the ceiling. Though I had seen it many times before, this was the first time I really considered it.

A Greater Sense of ‘We’: Reflections from the AERA

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
23 April 2012 - 1:45am

I just returned from my first American Education Research Association and my first trip to Vancouver. It was an exhilarating and inspiring week and wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on some of my learning there. In particular on a discussion of ‘we’ that I think is needed in more conversations about teaching and learning history.

"How Do You Know That?" Challenging how I come to know the past

Posted by Laurence Abbott
29 March 2012 - 2:29pm

My daughter has played an important role in shaping my thinking about how children come to know and understand the past. She often opens avenues of inquiry for me by posing naïve but difficult questions that force me to confront and engage the complexity of learning to think historically, and reflect on how we are situated in space and time. Through reading together, travelling, visiting museums and historic sites, watching TV, and telling family narratives, my daughter and I share encounters with the past, but personally appreciate these encounters in completely different ways.

Teaching the History and Impact of Residential Schools

Posted by Katherine Joyce
16 March 2012 - 4:00pm

Today I awoke to an article  published on the Globe and Mail’s website with the headline “Paul Martin gives Canadian schools a failing grade in history”. So,of course, I had to read it. In this article, Tamara Baluja not only notes Martin’s commitment to education for Canada’s Aboriginal population, but also his commitment to a more inclusive history curriculum:

Where’s the History?: The absence of history on History Television

Posted by Alison Deplonty
29 March 2012 - 12:00pm

What do shows like Top Gear, Ax Men, and Rodeo: Life on the circuit have in common with shows like Greatest Tank Battles, Lost Worlds, and Battle 360? They’re all programs on History Television.  If you’re like me and you’re wondering what the former have to do with history you’re not alone.  What happened to the evenings of Digging for the Truth, Underworld Histories, and Patton 360?  The History Television bio on Twitter (@HistoryTVCanada) says that they provide “entertaining programs that bring to life people and events from the past and history in the making.”  Maybe the folks at History Television think that Around the World in 80 Ways, Ice Road Truckers, and similar programs depict history in the making, but I don’t—no matter how entertaining they may be.

The Development of the Route 1812

Posted by Thomas Peace
20 May 2012 - 9:13am

This is the fourth in a weekly series of posts leading up to the mini-conference The War of 1812: Whose War was it Anyway? being held at the University of Waterloo on May 30th.

By Adrienne Horne, Regional Project Manager, Western Corridor Alliance

The Western Corridor War of 1812 Bicentennial Alliance (WCA) is one of 7 regions in Ontario set up by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

The WCA jointly coordinates activities for the bicentennial in the central region of Southwestern Ontario.  The corridor links communities, including the First Nations, from the western tip of Lake Ontario in Burlington running south-west, along the north side of the Lake Erie coastline, ending at Middlesex County.

Our mandate is to ensure broad connectivity to commemorate initiatives that foster the legacy left by the people, history and communities and that align with the provincial commemorative priorities.

What’s Wrong With Celebrating the War of 1812?

Posted by Thomas Peace
20 May 2012 - 9:09am

This is the third in a weekly series of posts leading up to the mini-conference The War of 1812: Whose War was it Anyway? being held at the University of Waterloo on May 30th.

By Ian McKay and Jamie Swift

Warmonger politicians customarily indulge in high rhetoric, attempting to rally the citizenry round the flag and boost the bloodletting. Or when invoking the glories of past wars. The War of 1812 was no exception.

Those who witness war’s gruesome reality often remember things differently, as do many historians.

“It would be a useful lesson to cold-blooded politicians, who calculate on a war costing so many lives and so many limbs as they would on a horse costing so many pounds,” wrote embittered battlefield surgeon William ‘Tiger’ Dunlop, “to witness such a scene, if only for one hour.”

The War of 1812: Whose War was it Anyway?

Posted by Thomas Peace
8 May 2012 - 7:19am

This summer marks the two hundredth anniversary of the United States’ declaration of war on Great Britain and her colonies (including what eventually became Canada). The bicentennial of the War of 1812 this summer will be the starting point for a number of commemorations, restorations, re-enactments and monument building. The Government of Canada, under current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reiterated its commitment to supporting commemorations across Canada in its most recent Speech from the Throne.

Upper Canadian War Resisters in the War of 1812

Posted by Thomas Peace
8 May 2012 - 7:13am

 This is the second in a weekly series of posts leading up to the mini-conference The War of 1812: Whose War was it Anyway? being held at the University of Waterloo on May 30th.


By Jonathan Seiling

It is widely recognized that many Upper Canadians did not demonstrate utmost loyalty toward the British Crown on the eve of the war, or even during the war. Some settlers objected to the war in communities on both sides of the border, whether on pragmatic grounds, or due to "disaffection" and political dissent. Others refused to participate on principle.

Tecumseh Lies Here

Posted by Thomas Peace
8 May 2012 - 7:09am

 This is the first in a weekly series of posts leading up to the mini-conference The War of 1812: Whose War was it Anyway? being held at the University of Waterloo on May 30th.


By Adriana Ayers, MA Candidate, University of Western Ontario

Augmented reality games (ARGs) are immersive and interactive plot-based games, which break down the barriers between the gaming world and reality. They are not played in any one place or through any one medium, but sprawlsprawled across multiple media elements, such as email, Twitter, YouTube, Wiki pages, text messages, blogs, etc.etc.. No form of communication or digital interaction is off limits. Indeed, the point of an ARG is to pull game play out of the computer and into the real world, blurring the lines of simulation and experience. Unlike a regular computer game, which is controlled by artificial intelligence, ARG players interact directly with the human beings who design and control the game, appropriately named the PuppetMasters.

Teacher's Choice? Making Connections

Posted by Caitlin Johnson
5 April 2012 - 12:13pm

In social studies class, teachers will run into topics that they love - or hate.  Nevertheless, all topics, objectives, goals and themes put forth by the individual Departments of Education for each province need to be met. So, do teacher's have any flexibility or choice in what they teach their students? 

In reality, teacher's are to assume the role of a type of 'vessel,' through which all of this need-to-know information originates from, so students leave class with new ideas and knowledge to grow from and utilize in becoming the 'ideal Canadian citizen.'  Having said that, how many teachers out there can truly say they have 'stuck to the curriculum guide' and 'kept in line with the requirements for the course.'  Come on!  Teachers go in to this profession because they love learning, and they have knowledge to offer and the intense desire to share it.  

Grab a Pint and Let’s Talk About History

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
26 March 2012 - 4:04am

I’ve discussed many historical events in pubs since I’ve been England. Being an historian-in-training of the First World War opens up trajectories of conversation that I feel would otherwise be unlikely. For example, I’ve had more than one conversation like the following: You study the First World War, you say? Have you heard of Q-Boats? Do you know the exact geographic location of every major battle on the Western Front? Wait, you study the homefront? Where, in Canada? Well that’s okay I guess, but let’s get back to talking about the First World War. Did you know many soldiers spent much time fighting in and digging out tunnels?

New Possibilities - Read Review Respond

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
21 March 2012 - 12:18am

Over the next four weeks, three graduate students will be having a blog discussion about Penney Clark's new edited collection New Possibilities for the Past (UBC Press). This exciting collection poses topical questions, explores relevant issues, and ultimately maps the landscape of history education in Canada today. One a week, published on a Wednesday, one of our bloggers will be respond to a question that pushes a response and review in exciting directions.

Material Traces & Decolonizing Pedagogies in Nunavut History Education

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
22 February 2012 - 1:01pm

This object is a replica of a necklace with a round tag attached to it. The words “Eskimo Identification Canada” are imprinted around the circumference of the disk, with a picture of the King’s crown in the centre. Below the crown, or more often on the reverse of the disk, would be the capital letter E or W (standing for East or West) and then four or five numbers following the letter. Such as: “E5-1234”. The object is an “E-tag” or ujamiik in Inuktitut.  The tag was made by the government and issued to an individual Inuk for use as their identification, indicating recognition by the crown or Canadian government. As the disk is strung on a necklace it could be worn (and, importantly, not lost), similar to the “dog-tags” worn by military personnel. What opportunity does a material trace like this create in a Nunavut history classroom?

Remembering, Forgetting and the Stories We Tell

Posted by Thomas Peace
19 February 2012 - 12:59pm

Last week, as I was writing a review of Adele Perry’s and Esyllt Jones’s recently released People’s Citizenship Guide, an article in The Washington Post caught my eye. Afghanistan is about to launch a new public school history curriculum aimed at building peace and unity.  In an effort to build national unity, the new curriculum will only discuss events leading up to 1973.  Afghan students will not learn about the divisive subjects of Communism and the Soviet War, the Mujahedeen, the Taliban or the past decade of the American-led War on Terror. As a historian, I generally disagree with attempts to avoid teaching controversial subjects. The high stakes involved in this decision, however, caused me to pause and reflect on the review exercise in which I was engaged.

Ethical judgments in school history

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
12 February 2012 - 6:54pm
Over my last three blog posts I have discussed what ethical judgments are, the arguments used by historians, philosophers and historiographers to argue that ethical judgments have no place in the discipline of history, and the key arguments why ethical judgments are an important part of doing history. In this blog I would like to discuss how ethical judgments are an important, but unrecognized part of history education in our schools. 

Shortcuts & Segways: The Infamous Heritage Minutes

Posted by Caitlin Johnson
6 February 2012 - 10:48am

Sitting at home watching CTV during my early years when my family only had what we like to call, “country cable,” or the two channels you got when you lived in the boonies, I was raised on the Heritage Minutes played during commercial breaks.  This is where I found myself, for the first time, really interested in our history, through these one-minute snippets about the various heros and heroines of Canada, and the events, both good and bad, that have shaped us as a nation  For many youth this is where their first encounter with our history starts; some students, like myself, come to love the dramatic narratives that rise out of these small, well-crafted pieces of film. 

Let’s Talk History! on Your Campus

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
6 February 2012 - 9:58am


Did you know that February 20 is National Heritage Day in Canada? First established in 1974 by the Heritage Canada Foundation, each year the third Monday in February is widely recognised across our nation as a day to encourage Canadians to identify, protect and enhance their natural, cultural, and built environments.

This year, in recognition of National Heritage Day in February, the THEN/HiER Graduate Student Committee has initiated a program to advance more interdisciplinary dialogue about doing history. How this works is that history graduate students are invited to participate in an informal discussion with social studies/Canadian studies education students, on their university campuses, about historical inquiry.

Age, Pop Culture and Sharing the Past with Students

Posted by Laurence Abbott
30 January 2012 - 12:41pm

 A few months ago I wrote about a journal article I co-authored with Dr Kent den Heyer where we explored the challenges pre-service teachers had with telling historical narratives that are not the ‘grand narrative,’ that is, history as told from another perspective. We had conducted a study with student-teachers in their final term of their education program, assigning them the challenge of composing short videos of no more than eight minutes in which they must tell two narratives of Canada’s past that share an event in common. The one condition that makes the assignment difficult is that neither story can be the story of Canada’s past that we already know.

I’ll Take My Coffee with a Splash of History, Please

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
27 January 2012 - 12:27pm

On my way home from the British Library this week I found myself trampling over the past. I mean this in the literal sense; embedded into the sidewalk beneath my feet was a small iron heart with initials. I stopped, looked around, noticed for the first time that every few steps I took I was rewarded by more of these small tokens encased in concrete and taking the form of coins, lockets, and chains.

Teaching History Backwards

Posted by Katherine Joyce
23 January 2012 - 10:16am

Imagine, instead of starting your history course at the earliest date covered, you start as close to the present day as possible, and go back in time from there. Teaching history backwards can be very effective at engaging student interest and teaching major historical concepts such as causality. It will also grab students’ attention!

Power and the Questions We Ask about History Education

Posted by Thomas Peace
13 January 2012 - 3:12pm

Last month on this blog, Samantha Cutrara asked a challenging question that gets to the fundamentals of history education.  Who, she asks, is history education for?  This question is more complex than it seems, because, depending on the answer, it has a variety of implications for historians and history educators.  Implicit in this question is a set of power relations that often remain undisclosed in discussions about history and how it is taught.  By probing the implications that develop from the question of 'who history is for', it becomes apparent that we must ask a more basic question that helps us better understand the uses and abuses of the past. What do we mean by history education?

What’s New in Nunavut History Education?

Posted by Heather E. McGregor
13 January 2012 - 1:02pm

As the newest member of the THEN/HIER graduate student committee, I am looking forward to sharing thoughts and stories about education and history from Canada’s North. I would like to begin by introducing a recent history curriculum initiative in Nunavut, which is in fact part of the reason I was inspired to pursue my doctorate in education. Staking the Claim: Dreams, Democracy & Canadian Inuit is a required grade 10 social studies module, published in 2009, that examines the history of Inuit land claims across Canada. As this first entry will not provide enough space to explore it fully, this will be the first of several comments on what I view as the most exciting made-in-Nunavut curriculum module to date!

Back to Basics: Easy Ways to Remember in Social Studies Class

Posted by Caitlin Johnson
12 December 2011 - 9:30pm

There are times when history tends to be overly focused on the specifics, especially in high school classes, and this can overwhelm a lot of students.  From my own experiences teaching grade eleven Modern History, the issue I ran into a lot was lack of experience with certain aspects of history (important historical figures, events, or dates).  With my two sets of grade eleven classes, both being lower level classes which needed a lot of attention and differentiation, the students sometimes ended up lost.  I came up with some easy solutions that can be applied to any social studies classroom:

Making the Past Present in the Lives of Students

Posted by Laurence Abbott
9 December 2011 - 3:42pm

Over the last couple of years my friend Dave Scott and I have been engaged in a dialogue about alternative and innovative pedagogies in social studies, particularly in history education, and how to make encounters with the past through history content relevant and engaging for students. Dave is a a social studies teacher at the Calgary Science School and a PhD student at the University of Calgary. Both Dave and I, like many social studies teachers, came into the subject area as people already fascinated and motivated to learn about the past, but we realize that students do not necessarily have the same enthusiasm for the content that we do.

Who is History Education For?

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
2 January 2012 - 6:46pm

We often talk about what history education is for – building national narratives, civic responsibility, or even critical thinking skills – but rarely do we talk about WHO history education is for. WHO ultimately benefits, grows, and is strengthened by the narratives we hear, the skills we teach, and the voices we emphasize? Is it the bureaucrats and politicians who have the ultimate say on what the curriculum will look like? Is it the teachers who need to interpret and assess the curriculum efficiently and perhaps even interestingly? Is it the Canadian nation writ large and those who have the power and privilege to maintain their power and privilege? Is it a general Canadian student who is expected to grow up to be a critically questioning, yet respectful, citizen in a changing, but generally unproblematized nation?

Interview with Museum Curator Gary Hughes - New Brunswickers at War 1914-1946

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
17 December 2011 - 5:26pm
I recently had an opportunity to chat (electronically) with Gary Hughes of The New Brunswick Museum. Gary curated the exhibition New Brunswickers in Wartime, 1914-1946  which opened this week at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
New Brunswickers in Wartime, 1914-1946  presents the touching and dramatic stories of fellow New Brunswickers during the First and Second World Wars, at sea, on land, in the air and at home. It is an adaptation of a highly successful exhibition created by The New Brunswick Museum in 2005.
In the transcript which follows, Gary provides some interesting insights into the curatorial world of historical interpretation. In our chat, we touch upon concepts of epistemological interpretation, historical significance, perspective, collective memory, personal memory, and historical empathy.

Reflecting on "Secret Lives, Affective Learning"

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
9 December 2011 - 3:30pm

This post was written by Melissa Otis, a PhD Candidate at OISE/UT. Melissa attened our second Approaching the Past event at Zion Schoolhouse in Toronto and these are her reflections from the event:

I was privileged to attend the second Approaching the Past event entitled "Secret Lives, Affective Learning" on 29 November 2011.The event occurred at the Zion Schoolhouse on Finch Avenue East located in what was once a farming community north of Toronto called L'Amaroux. The schoolhouse was built in 1869 and has been restored to the year 1910. Those of us in attendance witnessed several performances to illustrate the use of drama to teach history. Seated in early twentieth-century desks bolted to the floor, the audience watched the performances and wondered how we, too, could use drama to teach history in our various forums.

“Every textbook should have a soundtrack” - Teaching History with Music

Posted by Katherine Joyce
3 December 2011 - 9:02am

After reading Alex Zukas’ “Different Drummers: Using Music to Teach History,” a 1996 article about incorporating music in the history classroom, I was inspired to see that if anyone had created resources to teach history with music in the internet era. I was lucky enough to discover the historyteacher’s YouTube Channel. Created by Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona, two history teachers from Hawaii, “History for Music Lovers” features parodies of popular songs detailing historical events and figures. The focus is on Ancient Civilizations and Early Modern Europe.

What Can the Past Teach Us About First Nations’ Education?

Posted by Thomas Peace
28 November 2011 - 12:12pm

The Canadian press has recently been replete with stories and op-ed pieces covering the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education, which this month wrapped up a series of roundtable discussions.  The panel, created through a partnership between the Canadian federal government and the Assembly of First Nations, has a mandate to develop options and to suggest legislation for improving on-reserve education across the country.  Inequitable funding for band-operated schools in many First Nations communities has created a crisis.  Despite education being a treaty right for many First Nations, the panel notes that "fewer than half of First Nation youth graduate from high school, compared to close to 80 per cent of other Canadian children, and some 70 per cent do not have a post s

Tips for Tackling Controversy

Posted by Laura Fraser
25 November 2011 - 3:35pm

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Does this quotation also hold value in our Canadian History and Social Studies classrooms? Is the ultimate measure of a teacher and a classroom not how it tackles the everyday, but instead how it tackles the controversial?

I recently attended a session with OISE’s Jill Goodreau and Karen Pashby on Teaching Controversial Issues in our History and Social Studies Classrooms, and have been reflecting ever since on what a little controversy can bring to our classroom. It certainly does nobody any favours to avoid these challenging issues – in many ways, they promote the most valuable opportunities for critical thought and understanding of perspective.

The Impossibility of Avoiding Ethical Judgments

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
22 November 2011 - 1:43am

In her November 8, 2011 blog about Remembrance Day fellow THEN/HiER Blogger Katherine Joyce asked how we as teachers should teach about war? Should we try to remain objective, teaching ‘just the facts,’ or, should we take a stance, either pro- or anti-war? Joyce’s question gets at the very heart of the issue of the place of ethical judgments in the history classroom.

Creating "Gateways" into Social Studies Classrooms

Posted by Caitlin Johnson
21 November 2011 - 8:59am

THEN's "Imagining Gateways" conference was held in Halifax over Oct. 27th- 29th and was a real whirlwind. Although it came and went by so fast over the course of those three days, here is a summary of what I took from this great conference. 

What’s “Plan B” for Museums in Canada?

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
19 November 2011 - 3:19pm

Just over two-and-a-half years ago, during the keynote address to the 2009 Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History, historian Jill Lepore spoke about the absence of historical sophistication within the realm of public discourse. Quoting a recent article by Motoko Rich in The New York Times, in which the author coined the phrase: “an unprecedented pileup of historic news,” Jill Lepore suggested that it is during times of dramatic change that societies feel a need to look back on the past for answers. In our fast-paced world of instant information, she explained, the news cycle speeds the process ahead so quickly that we expect no less than instant gratification; and when our search for understanding cannot be easily fulfilled, we turn to the past. Thus, she reasoned, it is during times of dramatic change that historical sophistication is valued the most.

“From History to Memory”: Commemoration vs. History in the Classroom

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
15 November 2011 - 1:04am

Within a round-table discussion about the Great War and Education at The Great War: From Memory to History, an interdisciplinary conference at the University of Western Ontario, Robert Cupido at Mount Allison University put forward his argument: History, as taught in Canadian schools, is not really history at all. Instead, it is an exercise and engagement in commemoration. And the key distinction, the important point of difference, is that commemoration encourages a shutting-down, or shutting-off, of the critical thinking skills at the heart of historical instruction.

What Role Should Remembrance Play in Schools?

Posted by Laurence Abbott
10 November 2011 - 3:59pm

Remembrance education must and will continue to evolve and change as time gradually erodes away the living memory of past wars. With the passing of veterans of the First World War, and even the passing of the vast majority of civilians who lived through that conflict nearly a century ago, what is it that we in the present are supposed to remember about a war that is not part of our living experience? Remembrance Day began as a veteran’s event to recognize, recall and honour the deaths of comrades.

History on Remembrance Day

Posted by Katherine Joyce
8 November 2011 - 6:33pm

A major premise of Remembrance Day is to take up John McCrae’s challenge to hold the torch high and not break the faith of those who gave their lives in the wars of the past. As teachers, what is our role in meeting that challenge? How should we teach about the war? Should we try to remain objective, teaching ‘just the facts,’ or, should we take a stance, either pro- or anti-war?

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- From John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields”

Threatened Identity: What do We Lose When We Lose the Sense of Place? - Congress 2011 Big Thinking Lecture Delivered by David Adams Richards

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
5 November 2011 - 12:45pm

As a writer of historical fiction, David Adams Richards is best known for his ability to explore elements of humanity within characters who "come from the fabric and the soil of the Miramichi." During Congress 2011, he spoke about this sense of place and what it means to those who identify with New Brunswick’s past.

Drawing upon the historical experience of mechanisation in the forest industry, Adams Richards explained how such concepts of modernisation are not new to Atlantic Canada. Here, he said, generations of people have weathered the sense of inevitable progress that is associated with global change. Often, such progress carries with it what Adams Richards describes as a "great anonymity" that threatens individual identity. It undermines a shared sense of belonging that comes from being part of a particular place and a particular way of life.

Are Canadian Universities Academically Adrift?

Posted by Thomas Peace
31 October 2011 - 9:15am

Over the past couple of weeks I have had some really concerning conversations about the state of teaching and learning in Canadian universities.  In one, a colleague of mine – a university instructor – claimed that universities do not have an overall curriculum governing their operation.  In another, a senior educator stated bluntly that students learned little in the average undergraduate program.  Both of these statements took me aback and got me thinking a little more deeply about teaching and learning in the classroom.  Surely universities and individual academic departments have curricula that structures student learning outcomes, I thought.  But to what extent does this govern the content of specific courses and class pedagogies?  And in what ways do we measure what students learn from university programs as a whole?

Historical Quests: An intergenerational tool for connecting school and community

Posted by Thomas Peace
31 October 2011 - 9:12am

Whether we have an informed view of the past or not, an understanding of history is an important part of how we situate and re-evaluate our position in local, regional, national and international contexts.  Because the past is so important to connecting and situating ourselves to others and the places where we live, it cannot be taught entirely from the classroom.  History, I believe, is best taught collectively and collaboratively, with lessons that anchor into a student’s everyday experience and understanding of the past.

Imagining Gateways Twitter Feed

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
28 October 2011 - 4:55pm

Did you miss Imagaining Gateways? Here are our live tweets!

Thursday Night:

History Education for Early Learners

Posted by Laura Fraser
27 October 2011 - 7:56am

I grew up in a household where pop quizzes about Sir John A Macdonald were not uncommon, and my Grandma wore a t-shirt that said "Give Us Back Our Dominion Day." In my family it was never ever too early to be learning about History.

But the subject of early history education was recently raised in this Globe and Mail article about Calgary's Military Museums and its programs for preschool and primary school-aged children. The Museum has developed a program around safety - helmets and head-protection in particular - that also subtly begins an awareness of Canada's role in conflict and peacekeeping.

What’s Your Epistemology?

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
24 October 2011 - 2:04pm

In surveying the research about teaching historical literacy, it becomes evident that an educator’s own epistemological stance (their philosophical worldview) about history will have a direct impact on how and what students learn about the past. It seems inevitable that our own biases will be present – no matter how objective we may try to be - in the choices we make about what constitutes an appropriate source, good question, or valid response about the past. Of course, curriculum documents guide us in making many of our choices… but in between the lines of outcomes and assessments, lays the fuzzy area of interpretation; and interpretation is always open to individualised meaning.

Ethical Judgments in History: Are they wrong?

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
24 October 2011 - 2:00am

Recently I have begun working on a research study with my PhD supervisor Dr. Peter Seixas, and Dr. Kadriye Ercikan that focuses on developing and validating a tool for assessing historical thinking of students in Grade 11. The data collection involves a large-scale administration of the assessment tool to approximately 500 grade 11 students in British Columbia and will be used to investigate the relationship among the tasks, and the three concepts of historical thinking (historical evidence, historical perspective taking and the ethical dimension) that are assessed by the tasks. (For more information on Dr. Seixas’ conception of historical thinking see the Historical Thinking Project).

Taking on Multiple Perspectives in Telling Stories of Canada: A shameless plug for a forthcoming article

Posted by Laurence Abbott
17 October 2011 - 11:57am

There are more histories and more stories of our collective past than the ones most often told in schools. Many of these are fascinating, insightful, and very interesting, revealing aspects of Canada and what it is to be Canadian that are not in textbooks.  How might teachers and students go about finding these stories? Built into the title of my blog entry is the double-entendre 'taking on', which plays on how we assume the role of another-in-the-past-that-is-not-me when we, as teachers and students, try to see through another’s eyes and speak with another’s voice to tell stories of our nation-state’s past we may have never heard, read, or imagined before.

11 Novels (and 1 Collection of Poems) Recommended for Social Studies Classrooms

Posted by Caitlin Johnson
15 October 2011 - 11:37am

How many times have you come across a book that really inspires you and you automatically think, "I NEED to share this with my students, it ties in with everything we're learning right now!"?  I know this has happened to me several times and it's a great way to encourage cross-curricular projects or novel studies in your school.  I have come across many teachers in both the Social Studies and English departments of various schools that work in sync with one another to create excellent cross-curricular units for their students.  I hope to be able to incorporate some of the novels I have read into my future classrooms and find myself constantly searching for new books to read that relate to different grade levels, curriculum outcomes and that are relevant to the students.  Social studies does not have to come straight from textbooks.

Approaching the Past Workshop: Encounters with the First World War Outside the Classroom

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
11 October 2011 - 10:01am

From talk of wounded soldiers at Spadina House to pictures of the No. 2 Construction Battalion at the City of Toronto Archives, the first Approaching the Past workshop in Toronto on October 5 engaged over fifty-five teacher candidates, teachers, and educators with the history of Toronto and the First World War. By focusing on the importance of primary sources, both parts of the workshop illustrated the ways in which the study of history can be contextualized and nuanced to expose the intricacies of the past outside the often static print of textbooks. The workshop also focused on how stories about the past can be localized for students.

Websurfing Through the Archives

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
5 October 2011 - 8:30pm

These days, everything is going digital – even the archive.

National, provincial and municipal archives and libraries present wonderfully digitized sources, and many of the most interesting sites are community based. Building on Cynthia’s post about the “nationality” of formal archival collection,community driven projects can provide glimpses into how historical events are being remembered, interpreted and “archived” outside of institutions. Forgive me if I indulge my own interest (research and otherwise) in the Great War; these are a sampling of the sites I find myself getting lost in and distracted by.


1. For King and Country: A project to transcribe the war memorials in Toronto schools

Elections: The Future and the Past

Posted by Katherine Joyce
11 October 2011 - 2:04pm

This fall, more than half of Canada’s provinces and territories will have a provincial election. Ontario, PEI, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories had their election last week; Newfoundland and Labrador and Yukon Territory will have their election this week; and Saskatchewan will have its in November.  Elections are ostensibly about the future, but the campaigns and the results can tell us a great deal about the tenor of the times. The rhetoric that candidates use and the promises they make can tell us about the issues that resonated with the voters in that era.

TED Talk: Big History & Collective Learning

Posted by Laura Fraser
30 September 2011 - 6:53am

You'll think twice about complaining about having to teach 100 years of History in only a semester. David Christian uses 18 minutes to explore 13.7 Billion years of History and the lessons associated with it. Most importantly, that human survival and progress is dependent on the crucial element of collective learning.

“What big history can do is show us the nature of our complexity and fragility and the dangers that face us, but it can also show us our power with collective learning.”

Ethical Judgments in History: Are they right or wrong?

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
26 September 2011 - 2:53am
After two years of coursework and three arduous months of comprehensive exams I am preparing for the next hurdle in the seemingly never-ending steeplechase that is a PhD. My next opponent is the dissertation proposal, which if successfully vanquished will lead to my anointment as a “PhD Candidate”, a title which doesn’t seem much more illustrious than my current position as “PhD Student”. The process of choosing a specific topic and developing my research questions has proven to be much more difficult than I expected. Admittedly, every time I sat down to come up with something I was stricken with either a sudden case of procrastination, or the equally as debilitating malady known as “find anything else to occupy your time that is infinitely more interesting and important than what you are supposed to be doing.”

10 (+1) Reasons Why Heritage Fairs are Good for You!

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
23 September 2011 - 2:42pm
Now that all have returned to school, those of us in New Brunswick’s heritage community are looking forward and planning with eager anticipation for Heritage Fairs! So with this blog entry… in honour of project-based learning and disciplinary inquiry, I am taking on my motherly persona today to dish out some words of advice as to why Heritage Fairs are good for you. :-)
Feel free to comment and build upon my list...

Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources

Posted by Caitlin Johnson
16 September 2011 - 10:20pm

Let's face it, we all have those students who are not interested in what we have to say about history.  Many of us with a great passion for history may have our feelings hurt when our students don't appreciate the finer things that the social studies have to offer, especially if you've spent several years studying the specifics so that you're overly qualified and overly eager to share these details of history with your students.  So the real question is: how do we get our students interested in history?  Two words: primary sources.  

Here is a great example of how to easily integrate primary sources such as posters into your social studies classrooms.

What did you do last summer? A pedagogic opportunity

Posted by Laurence Abbott
16 September 2011 - 3:24pm

It is September once again and teachers and students are back together once again, sharing common spaces and sharing opportunities to talk about the recent and distant past.   What kids might have done last summer is still fresh in their minds, but, perhaps, what they did in school last year is a bit less fresh and bit less accessible.

As a teacher, how might I take advantage of this to help kids to develop and enhance understandings and appreciation of how the many ways history and the past inhabit us and play a key role in shaping our conceptions and perceptions of the present? There are a multitude of opportunities to explore this with students, and here are some suggestions built around some throughline and essential questions...

Warrior Nation vs. Peaceable Kingdom? Ian McKay on Understandings of History in Canada

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
13 September 2011 - 4:41pm

Ian McKay asks teachers: Do you really want to be answerable to the interests that… will be teaching your students how great, romantic and exciting war can be?”

As featured in THEN/HiER’s podcast series, I recently spoke with Professor Ian McKay, Queen’s University, about understandings of history in Canada.

Understandings of Canadian history, McKay argues, are focused around a new set of Canadian heroes that reinforce understandings of Canada as a warrior nation at the expense of understandings of Canada as a peaceable kingdom and welfare state. This new focus corresponds to what McKay calls a “durastic dumbing down of Canadian public discourse at the hands of a very consistent, coherent elite that wants to push us into an ever more militarized posture, and that’s what we’re trying to warn Canadians against.”

History Has Left the Building

Posted by Katherine Joyce
6 September 2011 - 2:53pm


For the past several years, I’ve been interested in outdoor education, and about the possibilities for teaching history in the outdoors. This year I’ve discovered more and more people who share this interest, and I have been lucky enough to attend two workshops focused on teaching history outside.

The first was a joint workshop of THEN/HiER and called Teaching History in Diverse Venues. Jennifer Bonnell summed up the workshop here. Highlights included visiting the Etobicoke Field Studies Centre, one of the Toronto District School Board’s outdoor education centres, where the staff took us through several history-focused outdoor activities. My favourite involved dividing the group into ‘families’ and having each family choose a site to build a first home, and then building a temporary shelter. It allowed the settler experience to come alive.

Welcome to our new blogging space!

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
2 September 2011 - 11:25am

Welcome to our new blogging space!  With the fantastic new user-friendly THEN/HiER site we have been  able to design a blogging space right in our site! Last year's Teaching the Past site was a great trial run for exploring blogging but all our bloggers felt disconnected from our THEN/HiER 'home' and are happy to settle within this site  to build our community and readership right here on the site.

Like history? There’s an app for that |

Posted by Anonymous
18 July 2011 - 10:14am

Like history? There’s an app for that |

… there are greater prospects for historical apps, since they have the ability to integrate texts, images, and other data from (and about) the past with the mobility of smartphone technology….

Tell — and teach — Canada’s stories –

Posted by Anonymous
18 July 2011 - 10:02am

A Canada Day editorial from the Michael Levine, the executive vice chair of The Historica-Dominion Institute

“Canada, like any good narrative, is made up of a collection of stories. And it’s those stories, and their storytellers, that form the core of our collective memory, and that intangible sense of Canadianness.”

Tell — and teach — Canada’s stories –


Aboriginal Stories

Posted by Laura Fraser
18 July 2011 - 9:40am

June 21st was National Aboriginal Day in Canada and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how Aboriginal stories can be better integrated with our teaching of History.

As the Program Coordinator for The Historica-Dominion Institute’s Canadian Aboriginal Writing & Arts Challenge, I spend a lot of my time working alongside Aboriginal communities to share the collective and personal stories of their youth. Not only has the experience been incredibly moving for me personally, but as a teacher, I’ve found incredible value in their storytelling.

In many (though not all) classrooms, Aboriginal experiences are told in isolation, or in a piecemeal way. Students learn about Aboriginal peoples when studying the arrival of Europeans, and often not beyond that. However Aboriginal experiences did not end there. Take this example:

Who Speaks for the Forgotten? – Congress 2011 Big Ideas Lecture Delivered by Antonine Maillet

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
18 July 2011 - 8:36am

Who speaks for the forgotten?  This was the topic of discussion for Antonine Maillet’s Big Ideas lecture held during the recent Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton, New Brunswick (Canada).  The Hon. Antonine Maillet is a well known Acadian author and linguist, whose fictional heroine La Sagouine (The Washerwoman) has come to epitomise the resilience and strength of Acadian heritage in North America.

La Sagouine dominates Acadian popular culture as a stalwart figure. Existing in somewhat contrast to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s romantic Evangeline (made popular by the 19th century epic poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie), La Sagouine does not pine for what has been lost. La Sagouine is strong. She is confident. Pragmatic.  Optimistic. These are the descriptors that have transformed Maillet’s character into a symbolic figure for the 20th century Acadian Renaissance. In many ways she also represents the lifeways of many rural New Brunswickers before the introduction of Equal Opportunity social reforms in the 1960’s.

“This is a true story” – states Maillet in the opening line of her introduction to the published monologue entitled La Sagouine (1979). True – in that her character springs from a historical tradition. False, however – in that La Sagouine never really existed as a living person. She is fictional, yet also represents the nameless who will never be found in any archival record. She encapsulates a generation of Acadians who have long-since been forgotten. Who speaks for these people? How are they remembered? This was the topic of Maillet’s “Big Ideas” lecture.

Interestingly, Maillet’s discussion draws attention to the importance of not limiting historical inquiry to the written word; for just as the vast majority of us will never warrant inclusion in the school textbooks of 3011 and our names may never be found in archival collections (except perhaps by a great-great-grandchild tracing her past), so too are the voices of the forgotten lost to us except within the vernacular history of alternative sources for historical inquiry.  How can we hear them calling to us?  Antonine Maillet has sought their voices in the oral traditions of Acadia, that span from 16th century France to 21st century Louisiana, Nova Scotia, Québec, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.

Active History on the Grand: Greenwich Mohawk Site and Community History |

Posted by Anonymous
17 July 2011 - 4:02pm

“The Greenwich Mohawk site represents this history, from booming industrial hub to abandoned contaminated factory site. At 52 acres it is the largest of Brantford’s brownfields. For twenty-five years the Greenwich-Mohawk brownfield has loomed large in the community’s conscience as a horrible memory of Brantford’s industrial decay, and as a symbol of Brantford’s current problems and difficulties in moving forward.”

Active History on the Grand: Greenwich Mohawk Site and Community History |

Who is Crafting our National Identity?

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
5 November 2011 - 12:52pm

Nationalism is modern but it invents for itself history and traditions. (Eric Hobsbawm, The Invention of Tradition, 1983) Public institutions in Canada, particularly those with a national focus, are mandated to present a national perspective on the past. Such a mandate raises the essential questions of “Who defines nation-ness” and “What represents a nation’s true identity”.

To what extent should teachers of history engage their students in inquiry about the role history learning plays in the pursuit of the national project?

Posted by Laurence Abbott
26 October 2011 - 10:09am

 It is likely that most of us writing here are history junkies of various sorts; consumers of the past with a desire to better understand the present, and, perhaps, imagine something of the future. I suspect that many people involved in the business of teaching history to kids are history junkies of sorts, too. As such, we have a responsibility to reevaluate how we share history with the young so that we all become better and more critical consumers of history. In “What kind of citizen,” Joel Westheimer asks “If students from a totalitarian nation were secretly transported to a Canadian classroom to continue their lessons with new teachers and a new curriculum, would they be able to tell the difference?” It begs a few questions for Canadian teachers of history to consider: Is the purpose of teaching history to the young different in a totalitarian nation state than it is in a democratic nation state like Canada? How might our own critical engagement with history help us to better imagine our history teaching as a site of democratic nation building?

Using primary sources more effectively: Sets of primary sources

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
25 March 2011 - 7:03pm

In this blog post I continue my series of posts that discusses the use of primary sources for teaching history. My purpose in this particular post is to provide a rationale for using sets of sources to teach history. I describe a project that I assigned to a cohort of pre-service teachers in a social studies methods class in the fall semester of 2010 that asked students to identify and select “sets” of primary and secondary sources focused on a particular historical topic in the curriculum.[1]

Pushing Past Canada and its (National) Histories

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
1 November 2011 - 11:55am

Over the past week, I’ve found myself immersed in a pile of undergraduate essay marking. The comment I find myself writing constantly into paper margins and scribbling at the end of essays is one urging students to think critically about not only the content they included within their essays, but also about the overarching narrative of national history itself. From the Conquest, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812 to the post 9/11 world, many Canadian history courses at the undergraduate level attempt to present students with a narrative that makes sense of the past through the lens of the Canadian nation-state. In a retelling of Canada that moves through the past as a series of events and developments culminating in the birth and maturation of a “nation,” how can we encourage students to think about the construction not only of nations but also of their histories?

What History? For What Purpose? For Whom?

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
5 November 2011 - 12:57pm
“In the history courses I took in school in the 1960’s, we read about history, talked about history, and wrote about history; we never actually did history.” (Chad Gaffield, 2001)

Among historians, there really is no doubt that history matters. We are engrained with the essential belief that without knowledge of the past, we are unable to contextualize the present – and it is only through history that we are able to gain insight, and learn from those who lived before us. Most historians agree that history must be evidence-based and that the practitioners must respect established methods of analytical inquiry that are as objective as possible. The controversy arises when one begins to interpret the evidence, and this becomes even more complicated when we consider the how and what of presenting history to students.

Looking for the outcomes in the undergraduate history courses I took

Posted by Laurence Abbott
26 October 2011 - 10:12am

I was a history major when I worked on my first undergraduate degree. And, while I developed competencies in a handful of interconnected European historical narratives, I did not learn very much about how narratives come to be. I do recall working with primary sources, but these supplemented my textual encounters with established discourses in modern European history where the questions we took up as students, while not necessarily resolved by scholars, seemed, nonetheless, resolved in the eyes and minds of my professors.

Now, as a doctoral candidate in social studies curriculum, I look back at that undergraduate history experience to try to figure out some of the overt and covert curricular outcomes of those history courses I took two decades ago.

5 articles (+2) I have found helpful in my research

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
7 March 2011 - 12:00am

We all go into our research with key ideas. For me, some of those ideas are: students are smart and have an instinctual interest in histories that will help shape their futures; history is emotional and that it is important that the emotive aspects of history are not stripped out of learning for the stake of standards; history is a language of the nation and like all languages, power and privileges are written into the words we say and the narratives we craft; and finally, we all have prior knowledges and preconceived beliefs that are important to articulate before, during, and after learning.

My ideas have been shaped and crafted by an innumerable amount of experiences, learnings, and observations, but when I think of some key articles that shaped the work I am doing right now, these five (plus two bonus) articles come to mind. I thought I’d share them as well as the key ideas that I have gleaned from them.

Reasons for using primary sources to teach history

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
25 February 2011 - 7:01pm

In my last blog entry I discussed a few of the obstacles that educators face when using primary sources in their history teaching, and promised that my subsequent blogs would provide tips and suggestions for using primary sources for teaching history. Before doing so I thought that for this blog it would be helpful to backtrack and discuss some of the reasons history educators have suggested for using primary sources in the class. It is important to remember that the commonly discussed reasons for using primary sources presuppose that primary sources are being used purposefully and effectively.

On Oral History and the Presence of the Past

Posted by Jennifer Bonnell
25 October 2011 - 7:24pm

When I first moved to Toronto from British Columbia ten years ago, I took up a job with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, coordinating an oral history project on the Scarborough community of Agincourt. Conducted in partnership with the Scarborough Historical Museum, the project took on a life of its own, interviews yielding more interviews as our network in the community expanded. In the end we conducted over 50 interviews with long-established residents and newer arrivals to the community from places as far flung as Sri Lanka, Egypt, Estonia, and Hong Kong. We transcribed every one of them (unbelievably, now, looking back). The project resulted in a travelling exhibition that toured schools, shopping malls, and civic and cultural institutions throughout Scarborough.

Let's Talk About History (and why it's important)

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
1 November 2011 - 11:57am

What is interesting and worthwhile about the study of past? Engaging with the past is often full of complications for students and instructors alike. For students, especially students at post-secondary levels, engaging with the process of doing history can be somewhat of a pragmatic minefield. As my fellow bloggers have noted here, there are practical complications surrounding the use of primary sources in the classroom, and as I discussed last time, there is a tension surrounding the not-so-apparent construction of lectures and lecture material.

Lessons from a Toronto renegade: From history student to history teacher

Posted by Laura Fraser
25 October 2011 - 7:43pm

With the upcoming Approaching the Past session in mind, I thought it an appropriate time to blog about the transition from student of history to teacher of history. History has been my favourite subject from Grade 8 onwards. Admittedly, I was first seduced by the antics of William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellions of 1837-38. From this first seduction, I devoured most everything history, and perhaps was even a little Hermione Granger in my classes. When the transition came to teach history (or, as I do in my current job, develop tools for teachers to use), I found the creation more difficult than the consumption, and came to the following conclusions:

1.       I’m horrible with facts, dates, and names.

“What might it mean to live our lives as if the lives of others truly mattered?”

Posted by Cynthia Wallace...
5 November 2011 - 12:59pm

“What might it mean to live our lives as if the lives of others truly mattered”? This is the question that Roger Simon poses in his discourse on the pedagogical significance of remembrance-learning. His response: if the lives of others truly matter, then we should accept the memories of others as counsel and learn from them. Memory and remembrance provide the framework by which individuals have the ability to re-experience the past through the lives of others. Although highly transient in nature, memory and remembrance are the triggers that allow us to make connections between the past, present and future.

Engaging with the past is a profoundly personal experience that is driven by memory. Be it personal, collective or historical, each of us finds our sense of identity by (to borrow the words of Robert R. Archibald) “connecting the dots” between ourselves and others across time. In this way, we are able to make sense of the events that happen in our lives or in the lives of others.

Making our assumptions about objectivity the subject of our inquiry

Posted by Laurence Abbott
26 October 2011 - 10:13am

Among the many aspects of my doctoral work that I enjoy is teaching social studies curriculum and pedagogy courses to undergraduates, especially the opportunities to engage students in dialogue and exploration of the role and place of history and historical thinking in social studies. There is a curious quid pro quo in this relationship – while I have the opportunity to share and contextualize insights from scholarly research on history and historical thinking in relation to teaching practice, students share with their peers and me diverse, complex and highly varied understandings of history and its relationship to schools, curriculum, and their future students. For many undergraduate students majoring in social studies, history is a discrete disciplinary domain filled with concrete things, and, while appreciating the work of historians is complex and intellectual, these soon-to-be social studies teachers too often assume that the product of historians’ work are objective accounts of the past.

Building Digital Literacy and the University Curriculum

Posted by Thomas Peace
31 October 2011 - 9:18am

The digitization of information, and the growing technologies used to manipulate and analyze it, is rapidly changing the context of the classroom. A couple of weeks ago Ian Milligan, one of my fellow editors at, reported on the growing debate over the use of laptops and other technology (like cell phones) during class time.  Milligan makes a compelling argument for the importance of allowing students the use of their computers in the lecture hall.

Reflections from the Field: Teacher/Research Collaboration

Posted by Samantha Cutrara
2 January 2012 - 6:42pm

Two questions that THEN/HiER members often ask are: ‘Do historians and history educators work together? Should they?’ From the general vibe of THEN/HiER, the answers usually come out the same: “No. Yes.”

These questions point to the valuable knowledge that historians can share to augment history teaching practice and that valuable practice that can influence a historian’s craft. While this collaboration hasn’t been as fruitful as many want, the question is still out there, flagging to some that there is a missing opportunity.

Obstacles to using primary sources when teaching history

Posted by Lindsay Gibson
25 January 2011 - 6:59pm

The importance of using primary sources for teaching history is almost universally accepted by history teachers, history educators and historians and other members of the history education community. However, in my experience as a high school history teacher, university social studies methods instructor and PhD student in history education throughout the past decade I would argue that primary sources are not used very often, and not very effectively in high school history classrooms. I am not blaming teachers for this state of affairs, instead I am going to discuss several obstacles that prevent teachers from using primary sources effectively in their history classrooms.

What to Include? A Commentary on History Lecture Writing

Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
1 November 2011 - 11:58am

Constructing an eighty-minute lecture about Canada and the First World War to present in a university lecture hall is a somewhat daunting task. How much importance do I place on the diplomatic alliance structure that raised arms in Europe and beyond after the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914? Do I reference the contemporary band of the same name? How much time do I spend talking about the military battles of the Canadian Corps – Passchendale, Ypres, the Somme, and Vimy Ridge, to name a few? Or the many domestic and social developments that occurred, including technological developments, economic restructuring, conscription, internment, and the extension of the vote to women? As I sit down to write this history lecture, I find myself grappling with a seemingly simple question: What do I include?

On Teaching History to Retirees

Posted by Jennifer Bonnell
25 October 2011 - 7:27pm

Part of the purpose of this blog is to discuss experiences and strategies related to teaching history in diverse venues. In the fall of 2010, I was invited to teach a course on the History of the Great Lakes to a group of 88 retirees as part of Glendon College’s Living and Learning in Retirement program. The course ran for 12 weeks from September-November 2010, with 50-minute lectures held every Friday morning, followed by a 40-minute question and answer session.