History goes high-tech
A Living Archives education project provided the platform for students in three Prince Edward Island schools to pair web-based technologies with the study of the province’s heritage
MARY MACKAY archiving
Students in three Prince Edward Island schools used something new to bring something old to life in this school session.
A new Living Archives project taught Grade 7 students at Stonepark Intermediate in Charlottetown, Ecole Evangeline in Abram-Village and Kensington Intermediate Senior High how to use web-based technologies to document and digitize the social history and historical artifacts relating to early 20th century life and showcase them on the web.
“This is the first time this has ever been done,” says a super enthusiastic Sam Preston of Covehead, 12, who was one of many Stonepark students who worked on the joint UPEI/Department of Canadian Heritage project.
The interwoven layers of the website features student writing, photography, videos and interviews related to their historical research which focused on a 50-year period between 1875 and 1925.
“It is like a virtual online textbook mainly,” says Sam of A Living Archives, which was implemented through UPEI’s Faculty of Education and supported by a contribution from the Canadian Culture Online Partnerships Fund.
Dave Cormier, web specialist for integrated promotions at UPEI, came up with the Living Archives concept, which uses Anne of Green Gables as a springboard.
“Anne is the context for the project,” he says.
“We started with seven excerpts from the Anne novels. We pulled out some general themes from the book and one of them was horses and transportation. So each one of the posts that the kids have done (on the website) is in some way connected to one of those seven excerpts.”
For instance, the horses and transportation theme used by Stonepark stems from Matthew’s and Anne’s carriage ride from the train station to Green Gables. Kensington focused on a general store theme. Ecole Evangeline did Acadian life.
“It’s the context they’re building from. It’s not like they’re studying Anne. They’re contextualizing Anne so they’re learning history,” Cormier says.
Research was a big part of the project, so students embarked upon field trips to the Public Archives and Records Office and the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation’s Artefactory to find the information and images they needed for their website postings.
“We would take pictures from the provincial archives and we would put them online and write stuff about them, my partners and me,” says 12-year-old Stonepark student Andy MacPhee of Stratford, whose topic was harness racing.
Other Stonepark themes included bicycles, trains, early autos and iceboats.
“We had to have three or four blogs each and then after that you put context pieces and link them to each other’s blogs. The context piece is basically telling what our project is and what you need for horse racing; like you need a sulky, what a sulky is and what it’s made of.”
Jerry Campbell is the Grade 7 social studies teacher at Stonepark whose class of 28 was involved with A Living Archives.
“The idea was that the lure of using technology to study the past would be a different, unique way for the kids to get turned on to history and their heritage, as opposed to
just the regular sit-down-open-a-book (way),” he says.
“We didn’t know exactly what was going to happen and what kind of interest the kids were going to have, but it has turned out to be pretty successful.”
Students have been working since early in the fall on their projects. The website is for the most part up and operational.
Bonnie Stewart, who is a A Living Archives project manager, says the project also allowed students to expand their literary skills in a whole new way.
“You give them the opportunity to both take ownership of their learning by the fact that they’re making something themselves — they were really proud of
the fact that they were
making an (e-)textbook themselves — and a chance to work within a virtual
world and stuff like that,” said Stewart.
“Then you get a high level of engagement, even from students who aren’t traditionally super readers in school in general or in the subject of history.”
A half-hour documentary video on the making of A Living Archives will be paired with the University of Prince Edward ?Island Faculty of Education research to document the learning potential of this cutting edge project so that other teachers and students down the road can adapt the project to their own needs.
For Sam, his exploration into his A Living Archives topic of bicycles on Prince Edward Island from 1875 to 1925 was a wonderful exploration into history and high-tech.
“I think it’s a lot better way of learning than just taking a textbook off the shelf and reading it,” he said.
It’s more interactive and you get to use a lot of technology.”
A Living Archives
n A Living Archives project is located at http://www.livingarchives.ca.
n Schools involved were Stonepark Intermediate in Charlottetown, Ecole Evangeline in Abram-Village and Kensington Intermediate Senior High.
n Archives themes are horses and transportation, the general store and Acadian life, all of which focus on a time period between 1875 and 1925.
n The project was a partnership between the University of Prince Edward Island, Canadian Heritage, Department of Education, Canada Culture Online Partnerships Fund, Museums and Heritage P.E.I., and Public Archives and Records Office of P.E.I.