Canada’s Canvas

Students create collage to highlight 150 years of Canada’s history.

Written by Marianne Helm

Posted November 9, 2018

If you were asked to paint one moment in the history of Canada, what would it be?

Students in Vulcan, Alberta, were asked to do just that, and their final creation — a chronological collage — will leave a lasting legacy for generations to see.

One hundred and fifty students, from kindergarten to grade twelve, were assigned to paint one year in Canada’s history as part of a Canada 150 project. Each student had to learn about their year, select one event they felt was important, and depict it in paint on a postcard-sized canvas. The final project was put together and exhibited for residents of Vulcan County to see.

“The project was a way to share our learning experiences,” said Carmen Pelletier, the project’s organizer and videographer. “It was a way for the kids to not only research history but to be a part in making history.”

Events highlighted by the children include the creation of Statistics Canada in 1971, the passing of legislation for the goods and services tax in 1990, and the Tragically Hip’s final tour in 2016.  

The Nine in a Line Creative Arts Society provided the students with art classes and assistance at the Healy Heritage Art Centre. Once completed, the pieces of art were mounted chronologically onto two large backdrops.

The final installation, entitled Legacy Canada, was unveiled on December 30, 2017, at the Vulcan Legion and is now displayed at the Vulcan and District Historical Society Museum.

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"By having youth involved in the creation, we bridged a gap, so to speak. The youth were able to connect with community members who better remember the past,” said Pelletier, “while the youth offered a new perspective on Canada’s history. [By] working alongside our older community members, they gained a new perspective themselves.

“Too often kids don’t see the connection between the ‘then’ and ‘now,’ ‘them’ and ‘us,’” she added. “History has to be relevant to kids.

“To get where we are going, it is important to remember where we came from. Every new generation has something to learn from the previous one, and through this project we involved many different perspectives on what it means to be Canadian.”

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History Makers is an ongoing celebration of community-based history initiatives across Canada. The Legacy Canada project was shortlisted for the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming.

This article also appears in the February-March 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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