During March Break, dozens of Garth Webb Secondary School students took an emotional trip to Vimy Ridge in France, where they learned deeply about the heavy sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers during World War I.
The 40 students and the seven chaperones attended Vimy Ridge as part of the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The purpose of the trip is part of Garth Webb's mission to remember these kinds of special military places and to honor their place in history. The Oakville school is named after war veteran Garth Webb, who spearheaded the creation of the Juno Beach Centre in France, a museum and cultural centre that commemorates Canadians who served in WWII.
During its trip overseas, the school group visited Menin Gate, Essex Farm Cemetery (where John McCrae wrote, In Flanders Fields), Passchaendale, St. Julien Monument, Juno Beach Centre, Beny-sur-Mer Canadian Cemetery, Paris (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, and Place St. Michel), Morro River Canadian Cemetery, Ortona and Florence (the Domo, St. Laurenzo Leather Market and Ponte Vecchio), and Rome (Vatican, Forum and Colesseum).
“The students learned about Canada's valuable contributions to World War I and World War II," explained Larry O'Malley, Principal of Garth Webb Secondary School. “Students developed a deeper appreciation of Canada's role in wars and the respect and appreciation people of Europe have for our contributions to the victories in war."
The trip contained strong links to the curriculum students are learning in school, he said. The trip is closely connected to Grade 10 history and the Rome and Florence site visits, for example, are linked to Grade 11 History, he noted. Additional curriculum connections included the subjects of Geography (travel and tourism) and Civics.
Grade 12 student Taylor Williams said the trip was life changing in so many ways. She said she learned how just proud she is to be Canadian and to “never take it for granted."
“This trip has opened my eyes to the brutal reality of war. I had the opportunity to research and personally better understand the Canadian soldiers who fought. I now have a new sense of responsibility to continually be compassionate toward others, just like the Canadian soldiers did. I learned that Europeans have not forgotten how Canadians contributed to the freedom they enjoy today."
The school's mission to remember Canada's military past is an important teaching piece for Garth Webb students, O'Malley explained.
“Our 'remembrance' mission comes from the fact we are Garth Webb Secondary School. Our school continues to follow Garth's legacy by honouring the men and women who served our country and who brought us the peace and prosperity we enjoy."
The school, O'Malley said, has undertaken an awareness campaign called #GWSSREMEMBERS, which “has been very popular." Grade 10 history students research and write about a Canadian who gave their life in service of our country during the Second World War.