April 17, 2012                                                                                       

Glen Ridge Students Celebrate Canada's Story 

Many Canadians are familiar with the story of Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist whose courageous stand against racial segregation helped pave the way for social change in America.

However, many Canadians may be surprised to learn about the story of a Nova Scotia woman who fought a similar battle against segregation almost ten years before Ms. Parks’ iconic refusal to move to the back of the bus.

In 1946, Viola Desmond bought a ticket to a movie theatre while waiting for her car to be repaired. Unaware that the theatre organized its seating standards by race, Ms. Desmond chose a floor seat. She was ordered to move, but refused and was subsequently arrested.

“I was so shocked when I learned about what happened to Viola,” said Glen Ridge Public School student Emily Sharik-Carreiro. “It was one of those stories that you wouldn’t think could happen in Canada, but, I thought she was a true symbol for freedom and wanted to help raise awareness of this amazing person.”

Emily began her research into the life and times of Viola Desmond as part of Glen Ridge’s Heritage Fair program. Heritage Fairs celebrate Canada’s story by asking students to examine a particular area of Canadian history, culture or tradition and then present their discoveries using the medium of their choice. At Glen Ridge, students were asked to explore the theme “true north, strong and free.”

Schools across the District School Board of Niagara held a number of individual Heritage Fair’s leading up to the Board-wide event which will take place on April 30 at School Support Services in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The program is open to students in Grade 4 through 8.

Heather Corey, DSBN Consultant for Canadian and World Studies, said the Heritage Fair program is an excellent way for students to not only learn about history, but to become involved in it. “Students work very hard to prepare their projects and present some of the most compelling stories in national and local history. Some students also choose to look at the traditions and historical significance of their own families,” said Corey.

At Glen Ridge, a number of students decided to focus their efforts on telling personal stories. One student prepared a project on Canadian home children, knowing that her family had a close personal connection to the child migration scheme which began in 1869. Another student chose to learn more about Charlie Vaughn, a close friend of the family and world renowned ferry pilot. Even politicians earned their share of attention, as one Grade 5 student decided to take a closer look at the life of former NDP leader Jack Layton, whom he had met during one of Mr. Layton’s many national election campaign stops.

“When students study history, they begin to see its relevance in their lives and also come to understand how the past continues to influence current events. We’re very proud of the work our students did on their projects,” said Hollyce Nunnemacher, Glen Ridge Principal.

In addition to the benefit of learning about Canadian history, Corey added that participating in the Heritage Fair program is an excellent way for students to develop important academic skills. “Preparing and presenting these projects helps students develop essential oral, written and visual literacy skills,” she said.

In total, eight Glen Ridge students were selected to participate in the DSBN Heritage Fair on April 30 where over 100 projects are expected to be on display.