By John Myers, OISE

In the previous issue of Rapport I painted a gloomy picture of the practice of inquiry in classrooms. In Ontario the calls for inquiry in curricula go back to my early days of teaching in the 1970s and way before into the last decades of the 19th century. More than a century ago John Dewey articulated this in How we Think (Dewey, 1910).

This picture is compounded by recent evidence from a major study looking at how students analyze web home pages, evaluate evidence, and assess claims on social media. If these together represent a cornerstone of civic online reasoning, they reinforce the despair many feel in the aftermath of the American election (Stanford History Education Group, 2016*).

So what can we do?

Recognize that the evidence strongly supports the notion of inquiry as a habit of mind or a tool for reflective thought rather than a set of discrete processes or “skills”.  Such thought is linked to meta cognition: a key factor in promoting student achievement.

Incorporating a number of directions suggested in both OHASSTA workshops and previous Pedagogical Perspectives (I leave you to explore Visible Thinking, Co-operative Learning, Mystery games, student-generated questions as well as the work from the Stanford History Education Group: all of which offer classroom-ready approaches to try and assess) I offer two additional directions for promoting or, as the TC2 people say,  “nurturing” inquiry.  The first approach is to get students into the habit of forming their own questions and teachers into the habit of using such questions to promote inquiry.

Welcome to the new Rapport blog! Our talented new editor, Risa Gluskin, has been working hard to bring you the latest iteration of Rapport. We are committed to communicating with our membership in ways that are relevant and meet your needs. In the blog you’ll find all the traditional Rapport content but it will be maintained more often to stay true to the blog format.

There are a number of other ways to connect with the OHASSTA membership and executive to share ideas and teaching practices:

  • Twitter - follow us @OHASSTA
  • Facebook 
  • Cube for Teachers - search for OHASSTA to find our page
  • Annual conference - we are returning to Ottawa in November, 2017 for Canada’s 150 celebration
  • Website - check out the resources - you're already here


Sandy Kritzer

By Jessica Fulton

A New Teacher at OHASSTA

In October I handed in the last assessment piece of my postgraduate education (teaching) degree - yay! After four years, two babies and a (temporary) move to Canada from Australia, I had finally finished the key step my mid-life career change. Now that I was qualified, in addition to volunteering at local schools, I wanted to spend my last few months in Ottawa preparing unit and lesson plans, finding materials and resources and preparing as much as I could so that I could hit the ground running once we move back home. Getting started on this grand project, however, was not as easy as I had hoped. After the elation of finishing the course subsided, I found myself drifting in a melancholy fashion through that awkward space between studying to become a teacher and actually having a classroom in which to teach. For so long I had imagined my future classes, and written assignments with future students in mind. Now I had to wait until the northern summer when our family returns down-under before I could turn my imaginings into reality. Enter the OHASSTA 2016 Conference. From the passionate keynote opening to the practical workshops based on real classroom hits and misses, OHASSTA Conference gave me two days of ideas and inspiration to fuel the launch of my preparation work.

Throughout my degree I was interested in a number of themes – technology in the classroom, inquiry-based and project-based learning in history and using both historical fiction and current events to teach social studies. I used these interests to guide my workshop selections, in the hope that I could glean some real life perspectives to support the theory that had thus far been the main stay of my teacher learning.

MP Charlie Angus’s opening address highlighted for me a number of similarities between the treatment of Canadian First Nations people and the Indigenous people of Australia (Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples).  This gave me food for thought about how to incorporate comparative lessons into social studies classes.

MP Charlie Angus at 2016 Conference, photo courtesy of Alan Skeoch

My first workshop was about using Google My Maps to enhance history lessons. We examined an existing map of a Canadian soldier’s World War I experience which not only provided us with an excellent demonstration of the mapping capabilities, it also (again) got me thinking about shared experiences between our young nations. Even better, as a workshop group we collectively designed our own map to test out some of the design features.  Rob Barter’s workshop was a good illustration about how a simple (and free) mapping exercise can breathe life into historical experiences.

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.

Editor's Note: It's time to start thinking about OHASSTA 2017 in Ottawa! Don't miss our conference, Nov. 16 and 17, 2017. Here's a reminder of what you can take home with you, from practical tips to inspiring thoughts.

By Rob Butters

Returning from Ottawa after a free visit to the War Museum early Saturday morning [in Nov. 2016], I was once again thinking "OHASSTA is the best History P.D. there is!"  What will I use?  What will I share?  Here's a few of my thoughts:

  • Duff Conacher from Democracy Watch pointed out some great resources. These are ready-to-use templates to get Civics students actually doing the things that active citizens do.  I've recommended this website, and its companion to the Civics teachers at my school.
  • Voices into Action!  I'd heard of this before, but we saw the detailed program map for the free lessons they have available - topics for which there aren't a lot of other resources (Komagata Maru Incident, The Bosnian War, The Boat People) 
  • Truth and Reconciliation - this was the big theme of the conference, as in "Whose Democracy?"  Michael Burgess got us thinking about "decolonizing Canada" with some great readings, including Chief Dan George's "Lament for Confederation."  From the acknowledgement of the land (Parliament Hill is unceded Algonquin territory) to several FNMI-themed workshops, figuring out how to teach about these issues is essential
  • I'll probably never get to my class (from York Region) to the Diefenbunker, but I will take them to the website!  The Diefenbunker people surfaced in the publisher's display area.  Cold War - cool stuff.
  • Working with John Piper is always a blast!  His enthusiasm for teaching and learning is so infectious.  Thanks, John! 


Democracy Education Network

Democracy Watch

Voices Into Action

Canada’s Cold War Museum



Rob Butters is head of history at Stouffville D.S.S. in York Region DSB.

Conference 2016 photo courtesy of Alan Skeoch