Reconsidering the Digital Historian Project

In 2014, the Digital Historian Project began as a partnership in Experiential Learning between 3 secondary schools in Dufferin County (the Upper Grand DSB) and the Duffern County Museum and Archives (DCMA). The goal was to offer a 4-Credit semester-long intensive program taught in situ at the Museum to senior students, in which curriculum would be delivered by a History & Math ‘team-teaching’ model. The lessons would integrate numeracy and historical thinking skills, and focus on rich archival research using a digital platform. Students were recruited from Grade 10, and take the DHP in their Grade 11 Year. In 2015, the DHP was awarded the Government of Canada History Award, and also received an  ‘exemplary program’ designation from the Ontario Ministry of Education. The DHP was cancelled by the UGDSB for 2018-2019. Today ActiveHistory.ca runs two letters from program graduates about the project’s influence.

By Avery Bettonvil

When I was a grade 11 student at Westside Secondary School, I was given the opportunity of being a part of the Digital Historian Project. It provided me with so many opportunities to develop as an individual. Collaborating with two other high schools, learning about our rich Canadian history and travelling to Europe to honour our veterans are just some examples of the amazing aspects this program had to offer.

Students in the Inaugural DHP

I was heartbroken when I heard this program was being cancelled. It played a critical role in my high school career and I feel that it has such potential to do so for future students.

I am now entering my third year in kineseology at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and am thankful for the skills this program helped me develop. The DHP taught me many lessons through a combination of math and history that help me in my current studies, such as advanced research skills, group collaboration and critical thinking.

The blend of math and history advanced my knowledge on statistics and problem solving. I was able to apply the lessons learned in math to history specifically by looking at wartime records and censuses. By having a grade 12 math class incorporated into the project, I was able to get ahead of my studies and take an extra class in my Grade 12 year which was very beneficial when applying to university. It also played an active role in inspiring students to engage with their community.

I am going on an exchange to England this year and the first thing that came to mind was that I would be able to go back to Juno Beach and revisit the memorial to which I donated on my veteran’s behalf. I still remember my first steps on the beach and the rush of emotions that came over me knowing the tragic, but inspiring, historic events that took place 71 years earlier.

The connections students are able to make and the experiences they are granted from this program is something that deserves to be continued for years to come. I truly hope this program can continue to inspire Canadian youth, as it did me. There is no future without an awareness of our past and the Digital Historian Project is the best way I know to keep this awareness alive.

Avery Bettonvil is in her third year of a Kinesiology Degree at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a graduate of Westside Secondary School in Orangeville and was in the 2014 inaugural class of the DHP. 

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