Two Hamilton history teachers have been honoured with the Governor General’s History Awards. Nathan Tidridge of Waterdown District High School received the award for his work in the establishment, in cooperation with First Nations, an outdoor educational space, the Souharissen Natural Area.
Since 2014, the Souharissen Natural Area has become a foundation for land-based pedagogy that has engaged various cohorts of students and members of the wider community in projects built around the historical thinking pillars.
Working in partnership with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the natural area was established by high school teacher Nathan Tidridge, his students, and other community members. This 55-acre educational and cultural space in Waterdown, Ontario continues to evolve as an outdoor classroom and inspiration for numerous curriculum-based projects.
Past examples of projects anchored in the Souharissen Natural Area include the planting of a canoe garden and the construction and installation of bat houses throughout the area.
As well as specific projects, the area has ensured that multiple cohorts of students have developed relationships with their Treaty partners, the Mississaugas of the Credit and Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
As an innovative approach to land-based learning, the Souharissen Natural Area is unlike any other space in Canada and continues to link the classroom, school, and wider community.
Dawn Martens of Buchanan Park Public School, Hamilton, Ontario was honoured for using an opera to teach elementary school students about the Holocaust.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and to learn about the plight of Jewish children during the Holocaust, Dawn Martens guided her grades 4 to 6 students on an interdisciplinary project to study and present Hans Krása’s opera, Brundibár.
This opera was performed over 55 times by children in Theriesenstadt, a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto established in occupied Czechoslovakia during the Second World War.
Through primary source research, novel studies, and correspondence with a survivor, students strengthened their understanding of the Holocaust and the historical context behind the writing and performance of Brundibár.
The culminating project had students put on their own production of the opera. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Martens pivoted the project to a virtual production rather than having students perform it live as originally intended.
Students submitted illustrations, audio tracks, and video recordings and Martens compiled the elements into a video that was shared online. By creating a digital version of the opera, this recording is a resource for students across the country to learn more about Brundibár and to honour the children who suffered and died in the Holocaust.
This project was a rich learning experience that allowed young learners to confront a challenging moment in history and to empower them to take a leadership role with their own learning.