Robert Bell

Recipient of the 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

January 13, 2020

Dundas Central Public School, Dundas, Ontario

Robert Bell’s Grade 5/6 class was studying Canada’s response to the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-19 when the students discovered Hazel Isabel Layden — a child who attended their school but passed away in 1918 as a result of the epidemic.

The students wanted to learn more about Hazel’s life, so they began to search for evidence of her in their community. Their questions guided the journey, leading them to work with the Dundas Museum & Archives, local historians, and McMaster University, with whom they found and explored the artifacts, places and people connected to Hazel’s life.

The students consulted newspapers, municipal and school records, and paid a visit to the church where Hazel was baptised, as well as the cemetery where she is buried. During their research, the students located and reconnected two of Hazel’s living relatives who had not known of one another.

This project culminated in a student-curated exhibition called Finding Hazel at the Dundas Museum & Archives. Finding Hazel was a rich learning experience that allowed students to find relevance and meaning in a distant, historic event, and inspired them to ensure that Hazel’s story will continue to be remembered.