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Here's a great opportunity for your students to explore what it means to be Canadian and to win some great prizes, too!

Students ages 8-18 can participate in the Canada Day Challenge, offered by Canadian Heritage. Students are asked to express what Canada means to them by submitting an original drawing (Draw It!), photograph (Snap It!), or creative writing piece (Write It!).

Canada Day Challenge

A winner in each category will receive a trip for two for the Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa, including VIP access to some of our most important institutions. Two runners-up in each category will also receive an awesome Canadian-themed prize pack.

Visit to learn more. The deadline to enter is February 15, 2013.

Posted: 22/01/2014 12:04:38 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

At Canada’s History, we’re always looking for new ways to have fun with history. To celebrate the Apr-May issue of Canada's History magazine - which features an article about John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in for peace in Montreal – we recorded our own history-enriched version of “Give Peace a Chance.”

As many teachers already know, music is a great way to make learning fun and memorable. Music can engage reluctant learners, encourage discussion and critical thinking, and reveal information about the ways in which people think about and remember the past.

Here are some teachers who have found creative ways to turn history books into song books.

This resource was created by Lethbridge teacher and music enthusiast, David Fletcher. The website contains lists of songs about history (with a focus on Canadian history), as well as lesson plans and teachers guides for select songs. There's a broad range of song themes and topics, including songs relating to anti-war and pacifism, imperialism, immigration and exploration, and industry. David has been adding to this resource for 10 years, and also presents his work to teachers and classes throughout Alberta.

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

This is a great blog post by Katherine Joyce at THEN/HiER about using music in the history class. She shares her discovery of the History for Music Lovers YouTube Channel. This channel was created by teachers Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona and features popular music videos rewritten and reshot to satisfy your inner historian (Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” becomes “French Revolution; 80's pop song “Come on, Eileen” becomes “Constantine," etc). You can also follow Amy and Herb on Twitter @historyteacherz.

Lesson Plans

Have you ever pumped the tunes in your history class? Have your students ever written lyrics or composed their own history-inspired songs? We'd love to feature their work or your favourite resources - just send me a note!

Posted: 03/04/2013 2:45:47 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

They say everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and for the next two weeks, will help you back up that claim. You can get a 14-day free trial of their World Deluxe membership, which includes access to all their Irish records.

As someone from Newfoundland, which has been called “the most Irish place in the world outside of Ireland,” my Irish roots run deep. The Dawson side of my family emigrated from Ireland in the early 19th century. James Dawson moved with his family and settled in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, where much of my family, including my Dad, still lives today.

I surprised my Dad with a call today, to see what we knew about the Dawson family before they came to Newfoundland. Thanks, Dad, for being such a great sport!

Posted: 15/03/2013 1:02:51 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Hi teachers! This is just a quick post to tell you about a great contest being offered by THEN/HiER and The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2).

TC2 is giving away 25 subscriptions to their online resource "Source Docs." Source Docs gives you access to primary sources related to thematic contemporary and historical topics. Teachers can choose to download individual images or complete sets relating to a topic.

You definitely have time to enter this contest. To win 1 of 25 subscriptions, simply send an email to and tell them in 10 words or less why you deserve to win. 10 words or less! The deadline to enter is January 31, 2013, so go enter now.

You can visit TC2's website to preview Source Docs.

TC2 is also one of our recommended Classroom Resources. Read more here.

Posted: 22/01/2013 8:46:21 AM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

On December 9, 2012, Canada's History hosted the 5th annual Canada's History Forum at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The Forum is held in conjunction with the Governor General's History Awards, so in addition to the talented panelists who presented their research and experiences, we had a diverse audience of teachers, students, academics, heritage professionals, and average history-enthusiasts.

The purpose of this year's Forum was to look ahead to 2014, when we will be marking the centennial of the First World War. The day was broken into three sessions that had us think about the war, the impact it had on soldiers, their families, and our country, and our role in ensuring that the battles and events are still studied and shared with future generations.

The day was filled with wonderful conversations, some of which happened on Twitter. You can reread some of the comments with this "Storify."


Posted: 12/12/2012 1:19:28 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

I don’t consider myself a sports fan. I’ve never really played organized sports and I don't follow any teams. But I will jump on just the bandwagon for just about any championship game there is. There’s just something about the way that sport brings people together that I just can’t resist.

It’s the same reason that I like sports history. To me, sports history is much more about culture, politics, and human relationships than it is about goals scored or games won. Never has that been more true than for the ’72 Summit Series.

The Summit Series is one of those events that just about everyone in Canada knows about. If you were around in ’72, you were watching. If you’re under 40, you learned about it in school. If you’re new to Canada, you read about the series in our Citizenship Guide.

While some say the Summit Series has been elevated to a mythical status in our memories, those who were around in ’72 will tell you that the events of that September haven’t been exaggerated with time.

In 1972, Canada was still riding a tide of nationalism — fueled by the country’s centennial birthday, Expo ’67, a new national flag, and its renewed obsession with Canadian identity. Although there were conflicts and tense relationships within its borders, on the world stage Canada was eager to show a united front.

That opportunity came with the Summit Series. The Soviets had been dominating the international hockey scene for the past decade, as Canadians focused inward on the NHL. With the Cold War serving as a dramatic back-drop, the two nations faced off for hockey supremacy.

The Soviets blew Team Canada away in the first game in Montreal: 7-3. Canada came back to win the next game in Toronto, and tie the 3rd in Winnipeg. The most telling moment came from Vancouver in Game 4, when Canadian fans took to booing their team for their poor performance. Canada lost the game, and Phil Esposito made his famous speech to Canadians.

Canada would come out on top, but they had to fight for their victory. They managed to overcome the Soviets' 2 game lead to win the final 3 games — and the series — in Moscow.

And of course, the goal that was heard around the world belonged to Paul Henderson.

On the 40th anniversary of his famous goal, Canada's History is celebrating Paul Henderson with a petition to get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame. For giving an entire generation a common memory and experience to share for years to come, it's the least we can do. Sign the petition and let's get Paul in the Hall.

Posted: 27/09/2012 5:40:38 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

A few weeks ago, The Chronicle published an article about a new crowdsourcing project to transcribe the papers from the U.S. War Department (1784 to 1800). Although a fire at the War Department destroyed most of the papers during this time period, historians have recently tracked down copies of most of the documents and recreated the archive. They’ve digitized the documents and, with the help of a new transcription tool from George Mason University, they are inviting volunteers to view and help transcribe the documents.

The archive itself is a treasure trove, even for a Canadian historian. To get a better sense of the project, I signed up to help and try my hand at transcribing online.

If you are seeking out a particular document of topic, there are different ways to search the archive. Since I was just transcribing to learn more about the process, I simply browsed the archive until something caught my eye. I settled on a document titled: “Wilkinson's Various Accusations Against Generals Wayne & Scott, & Defense of Own Reputation.” I knew Wilkinson’s reputation was a bit tarnished after the War of 1812, so I was interested to see why he had his back up 20 years earlier.

Transcribing an 18th century document is no easy task, but Scripto helps the process quite a bit. The digitized documents are high quality, and the tool allows you to zoom in and move around the document is necessary. The screen is split, with the original document on top, and a window for you to type your transcription at the bottom.

It took me about 20 minutes to transcribe the 1st of Wilkinson’s 13 page diatribe, but mostly because I scrutinized over a few words that I just couldn’t decipher. I learned that it’s best to just keep moving when you get stuck — often just a bit more context can magically make these words appear.

This isn’t the first example of this type of crowdsourcing project and, I’m sure there will be many more in the coming years. As archives become more strapped for cash, and demand for online access increases, I can see these types of projects as a possible solution.

Some naysayers are concerned that such projects won’t work, or will be more work for the staff and organizations in the long-run. Will people actually spend their time hovered over their computers, scrutinizing over 18th century handwriting? Will they really be interested in spending hours to transcribe the “boring” records? Will an average person have the skill required to transcribe these documents accurately?

These are fair questions to ask, but I don’t find them particularly concerning. Archives and museums were founded by “amateur” historians and today volunteers make up a significant portion of the heritage industry. Sometimes people do things simply for the love of it.

As for the quality control, I feel that the wiki model has proven itself by now. Anyone who views the documents in this archive can read its corresponding transcription and make any necessary changes or edits.

I think this is a great way to encourage participation, increase output, and provide access to documents that may otherwise go unused. People doing historical research would be the primary users, but I can see this activity also being beneficial to lots of other groups, including our classrooms. Transcribing documents would be a great way to engage with primary sources, and students will benefit from seeing their work online and knowing they made a meaningful contribution to our historical resources.

I had a quick look for similar projects taking place in Canada, although I didn't find any projects of this scale. There probably are smaller crowdsourcing projects in Canada, and I’m sure with the centennial of WWI and the 150th anniversary of Confederation that we’ll be seeing more of these in the coming years.

Posted: 24/09/2012 10:23:46 AM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Nellie McClung is perhaps the most famous early 20th century feminist, and is largely credited with securing Manitoba women with the right to vote in 1916. Numerous books, articles, and memorials have recounted her life and legacy. However, I recently attended a play here in Winnipeg (Fighting Days, by Wendy Lill) where a lesser-known women’s rights advocate took her rightful place in the spotlight.

Francis Beynon was born in Streetsville, Ontario and grew up on a farm in Manitoba after moving there as a young girl. In 1912, she became the first, full-time female editor of the Grain Growers' Guide, a popular journal published for Western farmers. The Guide served as a way to connect farmers with each other and the outside world, with readers frequently sharing information and opinions through their letters to the editor.

It was in the pages of her column “The Country Homemakers,” where Beynon concentrated her fight to advance women’s rights. Amid answering questions about stain removal and child care, Beynon discussed a number of women’s rights and issues – among them education, enfranchisement, equality, and independence. “The Country Homemakers” became a space where women expressed ideas, thoughts, and opinions, and different notions of women’s rights were shared and popularized.

When the Great War broke out in 1914, Beynon began to distinguish herself as a radical feminist. Most suffragists — many of whom had loved ones in the war — were ardent supporters of the war. They were pro-British, nationalistic, and their desire to win the war began to overshadow the women’s cause. They supported conscription as a means to win the war quickly, and were leery of “foreign-born women” (ie non-British) who did not share their patriotic zeal.

Beynon, on the other hand, was a pacifist and continued to advocate for women’s suffrage on the basis of equality. She fought for enfranchisement for all women, not just for Canadian or British women, like some of her counterparts. Her radical views were unpopular among many and, in 1917 she resigned from The Guide and moved to New York. There, she joined her sister and brother-in-law who were also forced to leave Winnipeg because of their pacifism.

Despite being front and centre of the suffrage movement, Francis Beynon drifted into obscurity and has been largely omitted from the historical record. As the director of Fighting Days wrote in the program notes, she has become “a mere historical footnote.”

Learn more:

The above excerpt from Beynon's column was taken from Peel's Prairie Provinces - a fantastic resource for finding material on Western Canada. You can find more of Beynon's work in their digitized collection of the Grain Growers' Guide at

You can read more women's letters in the book A Great Movement Underway: Women and The Grain Growers’ Guide, 1908-1928, edited and introduced by Barbara E. Kelcey and Angela E. Davis, 253 pages, 1997. A copy of the book has been made available online by the Manitoba Historical Society.

Posted: 16/02/2012 4:04:06 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

With budgets tighter than ever, and faced with an increasingly busy and demanding audience, museums have been forced to get creative with their programming. Museums are getting pretty clever, but I think this event takes the cake.

If you live in Ottawa, you have to check out the Diefenbunker’s Valentine’s Event “Love Under Cover.” For an evening of “covert affairs,” you and your sweetheart can take a tour of the museum, listen to an oral history of people who fell in love in the bunker, enjoy a gourmet meal, and watch a Cold War-era film.

Dessert features include "Fallout Framboise" and "Liquid Courage" truffles.

Single? No problem! As they point out in their blog, you can sit at the mixer table, where maybe you will “find love in a hopeless place!”

A concrete fallout shelter and Cold War hysteria might not be traditional romantic elements, but you have to admit, the Diefenbunker sounds like one of the sweetest places to be this Valentine’s Day.

Not in Ottawa but still a history lover? Check out our Calendar of Events to see what’s happening in your community.

Posted: 09/02/2012 2:56:15 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments

Last night, I attended the book launch of Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story, a graphic novel by David Robertson and illustrated by Scott Henderson.

Sugar Falls tells the true story of Betty Ross, an Elder from Cross Lake First Nation who is a residential school survivor. Betty’s story is remarkable and at the same time far too common of Aboriginal children forced into the residential school system. At the age of 4 or 5, Betty was thrown out by her own mother (herself a victim of residential schools) in the middle of winter. Betty managed to find shelter under an overturned canoe, until a man came along and found her. She found peace with her new adoptive family, until she was once again uprooted and put into a residential school.

In Sugar Falls, Betty shares her story with Daniel, a teenage boy completing a homework assignment, and April, Betty’s granddaughter. We learn of the horrors she witnessed, the abuses she endured, and the spiritual teachings from her adoptive father that helped her survive.

Sugar Falls continues on the themes addressed in Robertson’s previous graphic novels, The Life of Helen Betty Osborne and the 7 Generations series. All deal with different aspects of colonization and shows how both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals continue to struggle with its legacy.

For Robertson, these books are not the end goal — they are the vehicle through which he educates others about these important histories. He continues this work through various speaking engagements and reaches a diverse audience — from young to old, Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal to new Canadians — all of whom still have a lot to learn about Canada's colonial past.

To learn more about David Robertson, visit His books can be purchased through HighWater Press, a trade imprint of educational publisher Portage & Main Press.

Posted: 27/01/2012 12:17:53 PM by JOANNA DAWSON | with 0 comments
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Joanna Dawson

Joanna Dawson is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Canada’s History. Her blog will highlight all of the great history happening in our local museums, heritage sites, and schools.

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