A Second World War veteran injured during the Battle of Normandy was one of hundreds of visitors to view the grade 8 history students’ Fallen Andrean project this weekend.
On Saturday morning, bright and early, a small group headed off to Casa Loma in Toronto to participate in the Remembrance Day events at the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum.
Regimental Museum Curator – and former Commanding Officer of SAC Cadets – Major John Stephens invited us to present Melissa Ramon’s grade 8 history students’ Fallen Andreans project. Grade 8 students, Dutch Smith, Brendan O’Brien, and Colby Jackson, along with Grant Hickey in grade 11, were keen to enter into conversations with museum visitors about the Fallen Andreans project.
This year, the project has risen to a new, even more exciting level: as well as using GIS systems to map the journey of their Fallen Andrean interactively, the students have spent time in art class creating ceramic poppies, which will be on permanent display in the Memorial Chapel garden.
It was a very busy and interesting day. Our exhibition brought in several hundred visitors, and the boys eagerly and confidently related the stories of the fallen soldiers and also answered many questions about the project and about the School.
“Most people were interested in seeing the actual archival documents, particularly the original registration cards and photographs,” said Grant.
Our young students also enjoyed exploring Casa Loma – especially the dark tunnel, chatting to serving soldiers, visiting re-enactors wearing period costume, and interacting with the steady stream of visitors.
Among those visitors was a veteran from Juno Beach, Jim Park. He listened carefully to what the boys had to say and spent some time talking to them. Mr. Park then told his story. And what a fascinating story—as a 15-year-old he enlisted in the Winnipeg Rifles, ending up on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. His landing craft was hit and, injured, he had to swim to shore. The boys (and we) were captivated: it was a fantastic learning experience for our students.
“It was amazing to listen to someone who was actually there rather than reading about it in a history book,” said Dutch Smith, clearly a highlight of the student’s day. It was also a story which, more than 70 years on, few veterans are still around to share.
A second visitor, who also spent a long time talking with the boys, was Assistant Deputy Minister of Culture, Kevin Finnerty. He was extremely impressed with our students’ work and stressed the importance of working with and learning from primary documents.
We are lucky at SAC: not only do we have a wealth of information in our Archives that translates into learning experiences for our boys, but we also encourage them to share that knowledge beyond the gates of our school. And they get to have a lot of fun along the way!
Article by Sue Hayter, Melissa Ramon, Brian McCue