News Local

Simcoe County students research Canadian heritage and culture

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Carter Holmes, who was decked out as Canadian/American basketball inventor James Naismith, was one of approximately a hundred elementary school students at the Simcoe County Museum on Wednesday during the 15th annual Heritage Fair.

IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Carter Holmes, who was decked out as Canadian/American basketball inventor James Naismith, was one of approximately a hundred elementary school students at the Simcoe County Museum on Wednesday during the 15th annual Heritage Fair. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Elementary students became researchers during the Simcoe County Heritage Fair at the Simcoe County Museum this week.

Students representing 16 Simcoe County schools showcased their projects on Canadian heritage and culture during the 15th annual event.

More than 600 students from grades 4 to 8 participated at the school level, and 100 of the highest-ranked projects were exhibited at the regional fair on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Projects included research into topics such as Vimy Ridge, famous (and not-so-famous) Canadians, the Orillia Opera House, the 1985 Barrie tornado, early Canadian cartography, the Ontario Parks system, astronaut Chris Hadfield and residential schools in Canada.

“This event is so important for students because it has them exploring Canadian culture and heritage, so they are actually becoming experts on it,” said museum events programmer Meredith Patterson. "The best way to learn is to have an interest in a topic and then do the research on it.

“Sometimes the students are researching a relative or somebody not everyone may know about,” she added.

Exploring our country’s heritage is important on many levels, Patterson said.

“First of all, for celebration reasons: we have great things that have happened in Canada that students should know about and be proud of,” she said. “But it’s also important to understand those more difficult topics and know what has happened and why.

“Our history isn’t perfect and it’s important sometimes to explore those imperfections,” Patterson added. “There was one project where the student talked about Jewish immigrants coming to Canada and how one of the boats was actually sent back and the passengers weren’t allowed to come in.

“And there are those little topics that some people might not think twice about, but that are very interesting,” Patterson said. “It’s the process of finding those primary documents and really exploring them. They become experts on these topics.

“Not only are they teaching themselves, but they are teaching us as well so it’s a great learning experience for everyone.”

Minesing United Church Rev. Kristy Hunter was one of the adjudicators who helped grade the students’ efforts.

“I love the passion and the heart the students brought into these projects. It’s wonderful to see them growing as historians and asking really tough questions,” she said. “You have Grade 4 students looking at context and impact. It’s great.”

These weren’t run-of-the-mill projects for the youngsters, Hunter added.

“A lot of them come into it as historians. That’s the approach they take,” she said. “They tackle some very difficult topics and they are very clear about it.

“I asked them ‘What is the most important thing you learned?’ All of them had some kind of amazing fun fact they had learned or something that upset them, such as the way Chinese labourers were treated.”

The top four ranking projects will advance and represent the county at the provincial fair taking place at York University in June.

imcinroy@postmedia.com