By Michael Storey

This is a momentous year for Canadian history as we approach both the sesquicentennial of Confederation and the centennial of our victory at Vimy Ridge. With this in mind it became my colleagues’ and my objective to push for as much of a celebration of our nation’s history as our administration would allow. So when my geographer colleagues noticed that Canadian Geographic and Historica were making available a number of 8 x 11m maps of the battle of Vimy Ridge we collectively jumped on the opportunity hosting one of the maps would represent.        

We quickly realized that this one piece would garner attention but that it also provided us with an opportunity to draw more attention to a subject that we believe is vital to Canadian identity: the Great War.   

To that end we reached out to our community of parents and colleagues and discovered that drawing from them alone we could curate a small museum-like installation to promote awareness of the era for a number of courses including grade 9 Issues in Canadian Geography and grade 10 Canadian History. What came together engaged our students from primary to grade 12. It drew attention from colleagues in other departments as it became clear how their areas of expertise were represented in this era. Suddenly, we were not an unappreciated area of study but people who validated all areas of study. It improved our relationship with the community, drawing attention from our local Legion and council members. It caused conversations in our hallways. The inclusion of local history and names of families in our community made this very personal. We had found that magical mix of grand manoeuvres and local minutiae.

The success we experienced by showing how local people interacted with this global event has encouraged us to look for ways to continue tapping into this interest. I would encourage all who read this to look for similar opportunities to marry the larger attention-grabbing resources which are being made available this year, especially, and to remember to make the connections to their local communities and to communicate their achievements to the local bodies which might be interested. Our busyness sometimes undermines our achievements when we fail to share just how good we are at our business, helping others to see the connections between communities past and present.

Michael Storey teaches at Holy Trinity School in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Contributing Writer

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