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“The past opens a window to the future” for students

June 30, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Honoured veterans, historians, political VIP’s, proud teachers and parents gathered at the Dufferin County Museum June 24th for the Digital History Project (DHP) Commencement Ceremony. Head of the Centre Dufferin District High School History department Neil Orford called it “the culmination of an extraordinary educational journey – for the students, their families, the Veteran’s families…the teachers and Museum Staff.”
DHP student Riley Tilson introduced twenty-five students from three Dufferin secondary schools, CDDHS, ODSS, and Westside, who presented their digital research and stories of Dufferin Veterans from the wars of the 20th century and the Northwest Rebellion to over 100 in attendance. Special guests included author and historian Blake Heathcoat, Tony Balch 2014 Dufferin County Honoured Veteran, CPL John McMurray 2013 Dufferin County Honoured Veteran, and CPL William (Bill) Power 2015 Dufferin County Honoured Veteran. Guest speakers included MP David Tilson, Darren White Mayor of Melancthon and Chair of the Museum Board, CDDHS Principal Pat Hamilton, History and Math teachers and DHP leads Neil Orford and Asher Kirk-Elleker, Veteran Tony Balch, and DCMA Education Programmer Julie MacDonald.
The first of its kind in Canada, the success of the project, which partners students with museum staff for a full term of digital historical research, has resulted in approval by the Upper Grand School Board for a relaunch of the program next February. Seventeen grade 11 history/math students from the three Dufferin high schools spent a full semester in an intensive research experience in digital literacy inside and outside of the classroom. Students were given the opportunity to work with the National Library and Archives in Ottawa, the University of Guelph, the Juno Beach Centre and the Archives of Ontario as well as DCMA. Teachers include Neil Orford and Asher Kirk-Elleker at ODSS along with museum staff and archivists.
“What became clear to everyone,” said Neil Orford, “was the deep commitment shown by the students to remembrance – a passion to keep these stories alive for future generations. All of their research will be archived at the DCMA as part of their Virtual War Memorial for posterity.”
In addition Orford said, “The powerful experience of having taken their stories to the Battlefields in Europe, visiting the graves of their Dufferin Veterans and representing Canadian Youth at three D-Day ceremonies, has changed the students’ perspective on what it means to be Canadian – they have a much deeper sense after participating in the DHP.”
The students also presented their work before the Ministry of Education on June22nd. Orford reported that the students “spoke of how well Math & History fit together in the DHP, and of how this experience has changed their outlook on Aboriginal issues in the 21st century.”
Neil Orford called it “the best teaching experience” of his career. “Working with excellent students from all three secondary schools has been a rare privilege – one which I wish every teacher could enjoy. I commend the UGDSB Board for their investment in innovative practices like the DHP. ..As word of the DHP spreads, we are getting many questions and interest from across southern Ontario – both from school boards and Museums – I can only hope that the DHP model will transcend Dufferin in the coming years.”
Julie MacDonald, from the Museum, announced the winner of the DCMA Award to student Karissa Matson and certificates were presented from the DCMA and the Government of Canada. The final word went to class valedictorian Abby Scott:
“Over the semester we have fallen in love with Aboriginal rights activists, formed deep connections with our researched veterans, uncovered our identities, immersed ourselves into the digital world, and have been able to meet incredible people. Due to our experience as Digital Historians, being involved with the past has opened up a window to the future.”

By Marni Walsh

Photo courtesy of DCMA In attendance at the DHP convocation at Dufferin County Museum June 24th: Neil Orford – CDDHS History Teacher; Julie MacDonald – DCMA Education programmer; Abby Scott – Class Valedictorian; Darren White – Mayor of Melancthon; Darrell Keenie – DCMA General Manager; Asher Kirk-Elleker – ODSS Math Teacher; David Tilson – MP Dufferin/Caledon.

Photo courtesy of DCMA
In attendance at the DHP convocation at Dufferin County Museum June 24th: Neil Orford – CDDHS History Teacher; Julie MacDonald – DCMA Education programmer; Abby Scott – Class Valedictorian; Darren White – Mayor of Melancthon; Darrell Keenie – DCMA General Manager; Asher Kirk-Elleker – ODSS Math Teacher; David Tilson – MP Dufferin/Caledon.

         

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