Nature of the Project and Environment
The unique nature of the project and the environment (classroom, school, community) in which it was developed and implemented
The Historical Thinking Missions Project resonated positively with my students, who reside in all parts of the city, including some of Toronto’s “priority neighbourhoods.” Like the residents of the Ward, many of my students are immigrants or first-generation Canadians. Their participation in this project allowed them to reflect on their own immigration experiences and to find personal connections with individuals in the past who struggled to overcome the challenges of settling in a new city. In addition, some students discovered how current municipal projects in Toronto focused on the redevelopment of Regent Park and the Lawrence Heights Community in Toronto mirror the experiences faced by Ward residents who were forced to relocate due to government decisions to build new city infrastructure. This project provides a gateway to help students to better understand issues of social justice, poverty, health and sanitation, the needs of the poor and new immigrants in both historical and contemporary contexts. Students learn to identify patterns of continuity and change, look for multiple historical perspectives, determine causes and consequences and understand how government officials have addressed or responded to the needs of the city’s most vulnerable groups ways which have further complicated their livelihoods.
Students’ work demonstrated a strong sense of empathy and understanding for the experiences of residents in the Ward. Their exemplars of recognition, commemoration and remembrance reflected personal stories, especially of the “silent voices” that are not very well known in Toronto’s history and are rarely included in the study of the social fabric of our city or in their textbooks.
This local history project is multilayered and easily adaptable in its delivery. Through this work students see themselves connected to the historical and heritage work in their local community and to the activities of historians, archivists, heritage workers, urban planners and community mobilizers doing work about the Ward.