Centre Dufferin District High School
Recipient of the 2013 Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching
The CDDHS/DCMA Battlefields Project may be one of the only formal partnerships between a school and municipal Museum & Archives in Canada. The students selected for this project work cooperatively with the Archivists at the DCMA and the teaching staff at Centre Dufferin DHS in Shelburne, Ontario, conducting research which is both digital/on-line, as well as primary and oral history. The students volunteer to work with the Archivists at the Museum on their own time, in addition to their curricular work, which focuses on the broader context of Canada's 20th Century history. Most importantly, the students build enduring relationships with veterans/veteran's families, uncovering remarkable personal stories that have lain dormant for years and contributing to a remarkable local and national narrative. Since 2007, the partnership Neil has led with the DCMA has inspired students to: research lost stories of veterans from our school and rededicate a new granite war memorial at Centre Dufferin, supported with fundraising efforts of $5 000 from the community; fundraise close to $20 000 for the Juno Beach Centre Brick program; dedicate close to 120 Bricks (as of 2013)at the JBC in memory of Dufferin Veterans; conduct two Battlefield Tours in Normandy (with another 36 students set to travel this November 2013), and, with the diligent work of many students, recover the stories of those 100+ veterans which might have been otherwise lost to the mists of time.
Neil has a deep passion for engaging students in the joy of learning history - his strength comes from watching students revel in the wonderment of 'hands-on' history. He has an abiding commitment to the rigours of teaching the discipline of History, however those skills must be married with the experiential - much of which comes outside of the classroom, meeting experts in the field, but also, those who have lived Canada's story. Neil's partnership with the Archivists and volunteers at the DCMA afford his students maximum opportunity to put into practice, that which they learn in class.
The CDDHS/DCMA Battlefields Project is something that has come his way 'late' in his teaching career, though in many ways, he sees it as a culmination of 27 years teaching history in 'small town' Ontario. In reality, the Project has much more to do with creating a context for historical relevance with students here in Canada than at the battlefields. Endeavoring to help students 'make connections' with their world, using historical metacognition, has been his career focus. Developing a joy and a passion for Canadian 'narrative history' has been his goal and in so many ways, he sees the CDDHS/DCMA Battlefields Project as having done just that.
Listen to a podcast with Neil Orford:
View a Flickr photostream of past tours.
Battlefields Tour Promotional Video