By Jason Misner
COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, HDSB STAFF
Teacher-librarian Sandra Rogers from Aldershot High School was excited when the opportunity arose to apply for a professional development trip to Normandy, France this summer to learn more about Canada’s involvement in the world wars. She was quick to write her nomination letter to hopefully be accepted.
Also, given teaching students is at her core, she thought what better way than to use her experience overseas to help educators provide even greater context to Halton District School Board students about the many parts of the wars.
Rogers was one of only 25 teachers across the country accepted to go on the trip through the Juno Beach Centre July 31-Aug. 9. The group visited Normandy, Arras and Paris to take in Canadian military history sites including Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach.
The experience was one Rogers says she’ll never forget as a way of honing her research/history teaching practices. In fact, she’s excited about the start of the 2011-12 school year to share her teachings to enrich student’s knowledge, in particular, about the military history of World War II.
Learning more about the military history of war was a driving force behind Rogers’ desire to travel to Normandy. In keeping with Ministry of Education curriculum requirements and expectations of Canadian history as it relates to this country’s participating in past battles, Rogers wants to bring students a closer look at the military planning of wars and how it influences, to this day, many facets of life and learning.
She says there is much to be gleaned from the military side of war, for example, how far airplane engineering has evolved following the conclusion of the wars. Rogers says during their guided tours, they learned about the politics, social and economic elements of war decisions and where forces would attack and why.
“It’s difficult to bring students to France to learn about war but you can bring the experience to them,” she says, adding the networking with teachers from across Canada was a great learning experience in itself. “I would like to do more work with maps, photographs and film. Ideally, I’d like to see a whole course on military history. Being there and seeing how important the geography is, I would really try to incorporate that experience in the classroom.”
The Ontario curriculum for Canadian and World Studies encourages educators to use creative teaching lessons like personal reflection and seminar presentations to engage students in the content they are learning.
During her trip, Rogers wrote a blog about what she had been doing, taking readers on a mini-journey of the sights and sounds she was experiencing as part of what she calls a “trip of a lifetime.”
In one post, she wrote about having an emotional lunch in Mesnil-Patry, where she and others were guests at a small ceremony of remembrance commemorating the June 1944 Battle of Le Mesnil-Patry, a town Canadian soldiers helped liberate during World War II.
“These are the fine threads that make up the tapestry of the experience of learning about the Second World War that could never be found in a textbook. This is an experience to be shared with our students for sure,” she wrote on her blog.
Rogers credits so much to the Juno Beach Centre – a Canadian-centred museum and cultural centre, which opened at Courseulles-sur-Mer, France in 2003 – as well as Aldershot High School principal Larry O’Malley, who has taken the same professional development trip, Superintendent Odette Bartnicki and the Halton District School Board for helping cover much of the $3,200 trip.
As the 2011-2012 school year begins, Rogers has assembled a CD of lesson plans, tons of pictures and many personal reflections of her time in France she hopes to share with teachers, administrators and, most importantly, students.
“I will have the resources I gathered and offer them to other teacher librarians,” Rogers says. “If we can have more teachers going on this professional development trip and bringing back their experiences about the wars and sharing them with their school, there is no substitute for first-person accounts.”