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École St. Catherine’s Elementary School, Halifax, Nova Scotia
To mark Black History Month, Natasha Camacho and her students studied the lives and achievements of several notable Canadians of African descent. They paid special attention to the little-known Dr. Clement Ligoure, Nova Scotia’s first Black doctor and a key participant in the effort to help the injured in the aftermath of the disastrous Halifax explosion of 1917.
By conducting in-depth historical research, Ms. Camacho’s class lifted the veil of mystery surrounding this historic Haligonian. The children quickly learned that Dr. Ligoure had lived and practiced just a few steps from their school. They reported their findings in a variety of writing projects, through visual arts, and by producing a documentary video which they presented to their school. In sharing what they had learned, they were astonished to realize that their families and neighbours, for the most part, had never heard of this important figure in their history.
To spread their discoveries beyond the classroom — and as an exercise in civic engagement — Ms. Camacho’s students wrote a letter to the mayor of Halifax asking the city to recognize Dr. Clement Ligoure’s legacy. The letter suggested installing a commemorative plaque in front of the house where the doctor had lived. The mayor forwarded the students’ proposal to the city’s heritage committee for review. Despite being only six or seven years old, Natasha Camacho’s students were actively engaged in their learning and felt they could make a positive difference in the world around them.
Nominations for the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching are accepted all year round.