Neil Stephenson

Recipient of the 2009 Governor General's Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History

November 1, 2009
Canada's History speaks to Neil Stephenson about his collaborative classroom history project.

Calgary Science School, Calgary (Alberta)

Neil Stephenson's grade 7 students live the disciplines of history and graphic design, using 21st century tools to reinterpret events from Canada's past. Neil's classroom combined exemplary historical inquiry skills with a unique lesson plan.

Inspired by an online exhibit at the National Museum of Civilization, “Canada in a Box”, Neil developed an imaginative project where students collaboratively researched different Canadian historical events. Students learned how to assess historical documents, evaluating the reliability of authorship and identifying how to document sources.

Over the course of one year, they then collected and documented historical images and artifacts. Using graphic design principles, students then remixed and digitally assembled new cigar box panels to represent the historical time or event. The unit culminated in the creation of five historical Cigar Box panels and three short documentaries. Through the project, Canadian history opened up to become a creative and living discipline for the students involved.