UBC Okanagan students bring history into the present

Created by UBC Okanagan student Michele Jackson, this model of the Fairbridge Farm School on Vancouver Island will soon be on display in the Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives.

YouTube videos, scale models and interviews help tomorrow's teachers learn

What started as a simple assignment has taken on a life of its own for UBC Okanagan student Michele Jackson.

This term Jackson and her Elementary Teacher Education Program (ETEP) classmates are exploring and preserving moments in history through a variety of innovative teaching tools as part of Professor Vicki Green 's Education 417 course. The students are partnering with heritage and cultural organizations across B.C. to produce archival films for YouTube, building models detailing a moment in time, and conducting interviews with seniors.

Jackson chose to create an archival film and model of the Fairbridge Farm School on Vancouver Island, and says the experience has been better than she ever imagined.

"I became fully invested in this project," she says. "Not only do I have a deeper understanding of ways to effectively engage and inspire students about history through technology such as YouTube, but the work I'm doing will be used in a very meaningful and relevant way. That's very rewarding."

Professor Green challenged students to each choose two assignments focusing on a specific part of history in a community of their choice. As well, the teachers-in-training must include a theoretical foundation into their lesson plan for children from kindergarten to Grade 7.

At the end of the term, a number of the student projects are being donated to historical societies, museums and other cultural sites to be used for exhibits and educational programs.

"The project required students to get out into the community and really investigate a subject - they have to connect," Green says. "It is a hands-on process of discovery and learning that shows the power of storytelling, and asks them to think critically about the construction and presentation of knowledge.

"It creates a sense of self-awareness in the students that is very important to develop as teachers," says Green.

With a strong focus on accessing community resources, students have been working closely with museum curators, archivists and volunteers, digging through photographs, documents, newspapers and other archives with the goal of collecting and presenting the information in a new way. Many students chose projects that can help meet the programming needs of the organization providing them with information and archives.

"It's been a superb alliance between the students' course work requirements and projects the museum is trying to accomplish," says Peter Ord, manager and curator of the Penticton Museum and Archives.

"We are having students create models of historic buildings and interpretive videos that will be on display from May 1 to September7 in an exhibit titled Foundations, which highlights the history of construction in Penticton, specifically featuring buildings that have been demolished but are still very important to the city's history."

The scale model Michele Jackson created of the Fairbridge Farm School will be given to the Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives to display. As well, the Fairbridge Heritage Society has been talking with Jackson about the possibility of developing a longer archival film for their use, as they see it as an interesting opportunity to present local history to kids.

"I am amazed at the number of connections I have made in the community," says Jackson. "I'm talking with the society about ways to bring my work into the community and to schools. A seed that was planted with a simple film has grown in many directions."

To see Jackson's YouTube film, or any of the other one-minute archival films by UBC Okanagan students, go to YouTube and search for "UBC O GREEN EDUC 417".

Anyone who would like to see the at-scale models created by students are welcome to attend a free community celebration on Wednesday, Dec. 2, from 1 to 3p.m., in UBC Okanagan's Arts  building room ART103.

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