Oakville Trafalgar High School gets behind heritage project
and is honoured in many ways for doing so
Feb. 22, 2010
By Jason Misner
COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, HDSB STAFF
As 28 Oakville high school students huddled in Library and Archives Canada, you could hear a pin drop.
The Grade 10 2009 Enhanced Canadian History class from Oakville Trafalgar High School made the trip to the Ottawa building last spring to research the lives of local WWI soldiers. Each pupil was assigned the task of telling the serviceman’s story as part of an industrious weeks-long project.
In the hushed room are folders documenting the personal history of each soldier.
These folders are available for the soldiers’ families to read but the majority of them had never been opened in the decades that have passed since the war ended. The seals on the folders had never been broken - until the OT class visited to bring these brave souls to life through words and a video.
The teenagers read the binders intently, trying to understand the men behind the guns and uniforms.
The project quickly become a labour of love for all students involved, and it just happened to garner the class an impressive award for highlighting local heritage while earning extended display space at Oakville Museum.
OT’s Enhanced Canadian History class received the Ontario government’s Young Heritage Leaders Achievement Award in the Class Category for its outstanding celebration of heritage in Oakville.
Called the Oakville Trafalgar Grade 10 Great War Project, it was completed in collaboration with the Oakville Museum WWI Exhibit’s Words to End All Wars: Correspondence During the Great War initiative. It’s an exhibit of memoirs, diaries, songs, poems and art from the First World War.
OT’s contribution included a write-up of each solider, a poster, class T-shirts with the name of the soldiers and a YouTube video, which can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqNWxJ6SFg8.
The Ontario Heritage Trust, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Culture, honours young people who have contributed to the preservation of local heritage. The Young Heritage Leaders program awards certificates of recognition and pins to young people who have given their time and enthusiasm to heritage projects or activities.
Achievements have included the design of heritage websites, protection of natural heritage areas, production of local history publications, development of walking tours, costumed interpretation at historic sites and volunteering at local museums.
Individual and group nominees under the Young Heritage Leaders program will be considered for the Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Youth Achievement.
C.J. Depatie, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student, said to “touch and feel” the file of his soldier Meacham Denyes was an incredible feeling.
“(The project) snowballed into something that was almost more of a mission for us,” said the aspiring surgeon, explaining how young Denyes, with the 21st Battalion, died after only his second battle. “I really learned to appreciate life.”
Evan Formosa, in Grade 11, said the award is “really cool” and “something to be proud of.”
His solider, George Allan McGiffin, was a private with the 24th Battalion and died of a gunshot wound.
Calling it “inspirational”, Formosa marvelled at the courage of McGiffin - who wanted to be a journalist - to enlist in the war underage and to head back into battle after originally being injured.
“He had a life back home but sacrificed all of that to go over(seas) and participate in the war,” Formosa, 16, recalled.
Teacher Pam Calvert helped steer the class with its impressive project. The aim was to embark on something that would benefit and contribute to the broader community. It was a “good fit” with the museum, she said.
The students were so enthralled with the life of the local soldiers, giving them a voice, she said.
It brings to the forefront not only the war sacrifices made 90 years ago but the sacrifices still being made during the present-day battle in Afghanistan, Calvert stressed.
“I’m so incredibly proud of the work they did,” she explained, adding the project, which has been shared with the Oakville library, is to appear on the Veterans Affairs Canada’s website. “They (students) connected with them (soldiers). That was the special thing. They became their personal historians. They really got how important it was and the responsibility they had to tell a story.”
Carolyn Cross, curator of Oakville Museum, is astounded by the OT class’s work. In fact, it has become such a hit with museum patrons that the showing of the project has been extended until the end of 2010.
Cross is impressed with how seriously the class took the project, treating the assigned soldier with respect and dignity. She notes the initiative proves subjects like World War I have “no age barrier” and “shows the multi-generational appeal.”
“They took ownership of their soldier,” Cross said, noting she’s happy to see the class was recognized with an award.
The museum is hoping to see more of these kinds of initiatives gracing its halls, which gives it a youthful appeal, Cross explained.
“We hope there are many more to come.”
OT students were presented their heritage award at a special ceremony at Oakville Town Hall (South Atrium) on Feb. 22.
The solider each student was assigned to research:
■ Ernest Francis Appelbe (killed in action) - Tonya Stepic
■ Jack Telfer Bowerbank (killed in action) - Julia Barber
■ Ernest Albert Bowerbank (killed in action) - Allison Bishop
■ Frederick Dwight Coote (killed in action) - Maddy Coulter
■ Charles Edward Cornwall (killed in action) - Melissa Brown
■ Meacham Denyes (killed in action) - C.J. Depatie
■ Howard Mahoney Gorman (killed in action) - Sabrina Shrestha
■ George Allan McGiffin (killed in action) - Evan Formosa
■ George Alvin Myers (killed in action) - Meagan Shantz
■ Hugh Gordon Munro (killed in action) - Kathleen Minkowski
■ Charles William Snyder (killed in action) - Sarah Henderson
■ Donald Roy MacKay (killed in action) - Stephen Im
■ William John Fitzsimmons - Lori Israelian
■ William Joseph Conder (killed in action) - Richard Liu
■ Arthur Melville Munro - Christina Ma
■ George Brock Chisholm - Marsha McLeod
■ James McCraney Chisholm - Alex Vickers
■ Benjamin Whitney Hillmer - Ben Tenn-Yuk
■ Charles Bremner Green - Shane Wyslobicky
■ Henry Harold Cotton - Brittany Shales (relative)
■ Edward Osler Bath (Tod) - Gary Zhong
■ Ernest Fleetwood Pullen - Katie Armstrong
■ John Edgar Belyea - Leiney Chiang
■ Charles Terry Carson - Eric Atkinson
■ Hugh Andrew Carson - Emily Smith
■ Orley Allen Joyce - Jessie Liu
■ Ernest Ormand Leaver - Janice Ng
■ Ernest Lancaster Wilson - Claire Droniuk