Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Heritage Skills

Part of the continuum of heritage projects at our schools in Social Studies 9-11 sees our students researching Heritage Skills in SS9 -- ways of doing things, making things, learning, expressing, making a living, being creative that are becoming a lost art in our society. The project has three parts:
  1. make a connection with someone who practiced or knows about this skill, like a grandparent or elder 
  2. do parallel research on the topic with books and websites or other firsthand information 
  3. prepare a presentation for the class that includes a visual display (physical or digital) or a demonstration (live or recorded) 
Students design the research questions (e.g. for an elder) and are pushed to express authentic connections and what they learned from the research rather than an report on the history of the skill (although that may be the vehicle by which they make connections).

The project is timed to coincide with our study of the Industrial Revolution, change in technology and all that.

What's exciting me about it this year is that my current SS9 class (that has struggled with much of the material so far) has, gradually, grabbed on to this project and looks to be engaging in the work. It's all happening slowly and piecemeal - two have finished and some have not even started... but I'm looking forward to seeing the results. I have at least 11 students with a First Nations background that I'm following with special interest - this project was designed in part with these students in mind, a way to introduce Heritage Research (increasingly important and involved in SS10 and SS11) in a safe topic setting.

So far, here are the topics they have chosen, with the connections they will draw on:
  • 2 students sharing their knowledge of the Carrier language which is rapidly disappearing and spoken fluently by a handful of elders - these students know some Carrier and know others who can speak and write a bit more 
  • driving a horse and buggy - students' grandmother used to do this 
  • 4 students looking at canning - mainly grandmothers who have kept up this once ubiquitous practice 
  • 2 students on horseback riding & ranch culture - one students' grandfather was a well known cowboy in the Chilcotin 
  • drying fish - this student does this each summer, as did her parents, grandparents, gg, etc. 
  • backsmithing - student wants to know the history behind working metal, dad was a welder 
  • archery or trapping - students has connections to both and hasn't decided what he wants to do yet 
  • 3 students on traditional food, Norwegian, German etc (milchklosse?) - share and make some very unusual and ancient recipes 
  • 2 students on carving and wood art - grandfathers have made beautiful and interesting pieces 
  • the clothing prep and maskmaking work behind ceremonial dancing - student has Gitxan relatives involved in this tradition, and a grandfather who carves masks 
  • 2 students on breadmaking - one of them is sharing an intricate Portuguese tradition 
  • quilting, garment making - grandmother connections 
  • square dancing - students' grandparents did this every chance they got 
  • spearfishing - I think the student has a plan for this!
  • 3 students who have not figured out a topic yet
What is your favourite heritage skill or activity tied to traditional knowledge?  What's the personal connection?

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