This Week in Canadian History (March 26-April 1)

A day late, admittedly, but here’s the week!

March 26, 1885 – The North-West Rebellion began at The Battle of Duck Lake, near modern-day Rosthern, Saskatchewan. Superintendant Lief Crozier and his force of approximately 100 North West Mounted Police and Prince Albert Volunteers were flanked by Gabriel Dumont and a larger Métis force. 12 Government forces and 5 Métis were killed. Dumont himself was injured. Although the Métis force was victorious in driving Crozier back, the battle  is often seen a strategic defeat, as Crozier and his men were allowed to retreat without capture.

1921 The Bluenose is officially launched in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, to hundreds of onlookers. The schooner was built from oak, pine, birch and spruce sourced from Nova Scotia (except the masts, which were sourced from Oregon). Reportedly, a crowd member watching the launch asked one of the shipwrights, “What’s this one going to be like?” To which he replied: “She’ll be alright, but she’s a bit different to most vessels.” A bit different indeed.

March 27, 1647 – Louis XIV and Charles de Montmagny, governor of New France, set up the Council of Québec, the first constitutional document of New France and reportedly in Canadian history. The Council of Québec was designed to “adopt fur trade regulations, and any other regulations necessary for the good of the country” (Source).

March 28, 1918 – 23-year old Joseph Mercier is arrested at a bowling alley in Québec City for failing to carry his conscription papers on his person. The arrest sparks a weekend of rioting in the city, with reportedly four civilians killed and 12 injured.

March 29, 1945 – The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) is formally ended in Ottawa, Ontario. The BCATP is often regarded as one of Canada’s greatest contributions to the Second World War, with approximately 360 schools at 231 locations across Canada, and 131, 553 graduates of the program by its end. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Canada during this period “the aerodrome of democracy.”

1993 – Catherine Callback is elected Premier of Prince Edward Island, becoming the first Canadian female premier. (Obligatory Sister Suffragette link!)

March 30, 1834 – William Lyon Mackenzie defeats John Rolph and becomes the first mayor of the City of Toronto. At the time, Toronto had a population of approximately 10,000.

March 31, 1949 – At one minute before midnight, Newfoundland entered into Confederation with Canada. Listen in to this CBC Radio story on the momentous event here. One Newfoundlander, who voted against Confederation, said: “We’re in this now and we’re going to be good Canadians, but whatever they want to call me, I’ll still be a Newfoundlander at heart.”

April 1, 1924 – Over a year after receiving “Royal” designation from King George V, the Royal Canadian Air Force became a professional, full-time service on this day. April 1 is now celebrated as the RCAF’s officially birthday.

1949 – The last of the wartime restrictions against Japanese-Canadians are lifted, just under four years after the end of the war in the Pacific.

 1999 – Nunavut becomes the newest Canadian territory, with approximately 2 million square kilometres of territory in Canada’s Eastern Arctic; its first Commissioner is Helen Maksagak. Happy Birthday, Nunavut!

Like this feature? Check out The Canadian Encyclopedia, Today in Canadian History and the CBC Archives for more just like it!


TED Talk: How Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries

To close out the week, here’s a great video from Mythbusters’ Adam Savage and TED-Ed on how simple ideas can lead to game-changing discoveries. My favourite takeaways from this as an educator are these:

1. Never be afraid to ask questions. By exploring the simplest questions we can get incredibly rich results.
2. Learn through questioning and experimenting, not memorizing and accepting.
3. The best asset to learning is not technology, but curiosity.

Book Review: Ian Fleming’s Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in WWII

Hello all! It’s been a busy March. In addition to a 2-week March Break (I’m itching to get back into the classroom!) , I’ve also switched Internet/Cable providers and… oh yes, gotten engaged! I’m glad to be back in the swing of blogging, though. I’m excited to share with you my thoughts on my most recent read — Ian Fleming’s Commandos: 30 Assault Unit in WWII by Nicholas Rankin (Faber and Faber, 2011).

For those who don’t know me, I love the Bond novels. Every summer I re-read Fleming’s Dr. No and Thunderball. To me, they are a perfect combination of Cold War history, adventure and intrigue.

I like the films too — although I’m a Connery girl, and the Roger Moore films are rarely seen in my house. I even managed to use it as a year-long project in my American History Class — ending in a 20-something page paper called “Bond in America.” But I digress.

Rankin’s Ian Fleming’s Commandos isn’t so much about Bond, although hints of it are there. Instead, it’s about Ian Fleming’s role in the Second World War, and the formation and action of 30 Assault Unit: front line troops specifically designated for stealing enemy intelligence.

Although the book is not as gripping as Dr. No, I was fascinated to follow Rankin’s narrative about ciphers and decoding in the Second World War (who knew the Enigma machine was so fascinating?), especially in Chapters 3 & 4 “Technology and War” and “The Philosophy of the Pinch.” Chapters 12 on also had me absolutely riveted — from Operation Cobra to the end of the war, including 30 AU’s most famous coup: the entire archives of the Germany Navy (a find that weighed almost 400 tons in total).

If you’re expecting a biography of Ian Fleming, this is not it. There is a brief biography at the beginning, and Fleming pops up regularly throughout the book. But its main focus is on the men of 30AU, and the greater themes of intelligence and code-breaking in the Second World War. If you’re a Bond novels fan like myself, you’ll find some nuggets scattered throughout. Was Strangeways, the British Secret Service agent in Jamaica in Dr. No, named after Colonel David Strangeways from Middle East Intelligence Centre? And is the Lektor machine in From Russia With Love a mimic of the bewildering German Enigma machine?

Although it sometimes plods along — especially as we get into details of British bureaucracy, Rankin’s work is most exciting in the vivid way he brings to life the stories and misadventures of 30AU and intelligence in the Second World War. At just under 400 pages, it may take you a little time to get through, but it is well worth it.

Follow Friday: Twitter for Educators

Some of you may remember my Top 50 Twitter Accounts for Historians Follow Friday edition. There are a number of fantastic education-related Twitter accounts out there too, but the easiest way to find and collaborate with other educators and build a professional learning network, I find, is not searching them out one-by-one, but by participating in some fantastic professional development chats that occur regularly across the Twittersphere.

These chats are all identified by a hashtag (#) that allows you to easily find and track a key word or topic that other educators are tweeting about. This post won’t list all of them (Cybraryman has an excellent comprehensive list), but I will highlight my favourites Monday-Sunday. Tip of the trade: Find a program like TweetDeck, which allows you to keep an eye on all your favourite hashtags. My desktop regularly looks like the convoluted mess above – but I never miss an opportunity for learning!


#sschat (Social Studies Chat), 7PM EST – A weekly chat for Social Studies educators on a variety of subjects most relevant to their classrooms and teaching. This week’s chat, for instance, was on Classroom Simulations. You can also follow the hashtag all week for ideas and resource sharing.


#edchat, 12 & 7PM EST – The original education chat. This is the big one! It can be a little overwhelming for someone new to this format of learning, so I may recommend watching and absorbing the first chat you join in on. The most recent chats have been on media literacy and student engagement. There are hundreds of teachers from across the world making suggestions and helping each other!


#ntchat (New Teacher Chat), 8PM EST – A fantastic group of experienced and new teachers or teacher candidates coming together to chat about the basics of being an educator. Some of my favourite recent chats have been on communicating with parents, classroom management and teaching kindness. An incredibly welcoming group of educators where any question is welcome!


#mathchat (Math Chat), 8PM EST – A chat for those wanting to learn more and develop their skills as mathematics educators. This chat also repeats on Mondays at the same time. I don’t know about you, but math has never been my strong suit. Having a group of educators to bounce ideas off is a wonderful thing! Last night’s chat was on challenging exceptional mathematics students.

(Not-Quite) Friday:

Okay, so there’s not much going on Fridays. Teachers (rightly) get a night off even professional development. But, here’s a hashtag that take place all week long you should be following:

#historyteacher – A fantastic resource for all History teachers. Although there can be a concentration of American-History teachers, there are Canadians (like me!), Brits and all kinds of nationalities contributing to a discussion of how to best infuse critical thought, primary resources and multiple perspectives in our classrooms.


#elemchat, (Elementary Teachers Chat), 5PM EST (10PM GMT) – My first Twitter chat (thanks @tcash!) A great group of elementary school educators from across the globe collaborating and discovering best practices for teaching our younger students. Two of my favourite recent chats have been on fostering student-centred classrooms and best pedagogical practices for integrating technology.

(Not-Quite) Sunday:

Sunday is often seen as a day of rest, so I’ve also got no regularly scheduled chat for here. But again, here’s a hashtag that take place all week long you should be following:

#CdnEd – An opportunity for Canadian educators to share unique news and perspectives on the Canadian education system.

Happy Friday, everyone, and I hope to see you all at a future chat!

Footage of Funeral of Last American 1812 Veteran

An absolutely amazing find (thanks to Fort York for passing it along!) This video is footage from the 1905 funeral procession for Hiram Cronk, the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812. I’ve recently been surrounded by research into early film, so it’s exciting for me to see such rare footage that is so closely tied to my own historical interests.

Finding this footage is especially relevant given it is the beginning of the 1812 Bicentennial and the month that Florence Green, the last surviving veteran of the First World War passed away. Watch, enjoy and reflect.

This Week in Canadian History (Feb 27-Mar 4)

Louis Joseph de Montcalm Library and Archives Canada / c027665k

Feb 27, 1965 – Québec signs an international entente with France on co-operation in the education field; the entente is particularly important in light of issues surrounding sovereignty and power within a federal state.

Feb 28, 1712 – Louis Joseph de Montcalm, Marquis of Montcalm, leader of the French forces at the Plains of Abraham, was born in France.

Feb 29, 1860 – The first recorded Chinese woman in Canada, Mrs. Kwong Lee, arrives in Victoria, BC. She had travelled from San Francisco with her two children to join her husband, a prosperous BC merchant. For more, visit this great chapter from 100 Canadian heroines: famous and forgotten faces via Google Books.

Mar 1, 1945 – Toronto-born Major Frederick Albert Tilston is awarded the Victoria Cross for action at the Hochwald Forest defence line, “the last German bastion west of the Rhine protecting the vital Wesel Bridge escape route.” It is very difficult for me to edit down his citation – but I offer no apologies for the length of it and instead marvel at the bravery. For a radio interview with Major Tilston, please listen here, and read the full citation here.

Across approximately 500 yards of flat open country, in the face of intense enemy fire, Major Tilston personally led his company in the attack, keeping dangerously close to our own bursting shells in order to get the maximum cover from the barrage. Though wounded in the head he continued to lead his men forward, through a belt of wire ten feet in depth to the enemy trenches shouting orders and encouragement and using his Sten gun with great effect. When the platoon on the left came under heavy fire from an enemy machine-gun post, he dashed forward personally and silenced it with a grenade; he was first to reach the enemy position and took the first prisoner.

Determined to maintain the momentum of the attack he ordered the reserve platoon to map up these positions and with outstanding gallantry, pressed on with his main force to the second line of enemy defences which were on the edge of the woods.

As he approached the woods he was severely wounded in the hip and fell to the ground. Shouting to his men to carry on without him and urging them to get into the woods, he struggled to his feet and rejoined them as they reached the trenches of their objective. Here an elaborate system of underground dugouts and trenches was manned in considerable strength and vicious hand-to-hand fighting followed. Despite his wounds, Major Tilston’s unyielding will to close with the enemy was a magnificent inspiration to his men as he led them in systematically clearing the trenches of the fiercely resisting enemy. In this fighting, two German company headquarters were overrun and many casualties were inflicted on the fanatical defenders.

Such had been the grimness of the fighting and so savage the enemy resistance that the company was now reduced to only 26 men, one quarter of its original strength. Before consolidation could be completed the enemy counter-attacked repeatedly, supported by a hail of mortar and machine-gun fire from the open flank. Major Tilston moved in the open from platoon to platoon quickly organizing their defence and directing fire against the advancing enemy. The enemy attacks penetrated so close to the positions that grenades were thrown into the trenches held by his troops, but this officer by personal contact, unshakable confidence and unquenchable enthusiasm so inspired his men that they held firm against great odds.

When the supply of ammunition became a serious problem he repeatedly crossed the bullet-swept ground to the company on his right flank to carry grenades, rifle and Bren ammunition to his troops and replaced a damaged wireless set to re-establish communications with battalion headquarters. He made at least six of these hazardous trips, each time crossing a road which was dominated by intense fire from numerous, well-sited enemy machine-gun posts.

On his last trip he was wounded for the third time, this time in the leg. He was found in a shell crater beside the road. Although very seriously wounded and barely conscious, he would not submit to medical attention until he had given complete instructions as to the defence plan, had emphasized the absolute necessity of holding the position, and had ordered his one remaining officer to take over.

Mar 2, 1923The Halibut Treaty was signed on this day. A seemingly innocuous agreement between Canada and the United States around North Pacific fishing, the treaty was the first signed and negotiated independently by the Canadian government, without British Imperial representation or involvement.

Mar 3, 1890 -Norman Bethune, political activist, inventor and surgeon, was born on this day in Gravenhurst, Ontario. Called the world’s most famous Canadian, Bethune is still memorialized and honoured by over a billion Chinese. Bethune is most famous for organizing the world’s first mobile blood transfusion unit during the Spanish Civil War. He is also the only international figure that Chinese leader Mao Zedong ever wrote about, in “In Memory of Norman Bethune,”one of only three prescribed articles of the Cultural Revolution. For more on Bethune during the Spanish Civil War, see Michael Petrou’s Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, and for more on Bethune’s life and legacy, see Adrienne Clarkson’s Norman Bethune, part of Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series.

Mar 4, 1848 – Canadian Governor General Lord Elgin requests Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, leaders of the Reform movement, form a new executive council of the Province of Canada. Baldwin and LaFontaine, activists for political reform, are known as the Fathers of Responsible Government. For more, see John Ralston Saul’s biography of the pair, also from the Penguin series.

– 1994Canadian comic great John Candy dies from a heart attack while filming in Mexico. Candy rose to fame with The Second City and SCTV, and is also remembered for his roles in films like Uncle Buck, Cool Runnings and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Candy was also co-owner of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts from 1991-1994.

Like this feature? Check out The Canadian Encyclopedia, Today in Canadian History and the CBC Archives for more just like it!

Book Review: Carol Dweck’s Mindset

I recently had the good fortune to attend an informative professional development session on encouraging growth mindsets in our students.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist who studies and teaches on motivation, personality and development, was a focus of this session. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006), explores the issues of growth mindsets versus fixed mindsets with real-world examples and — most relevantly here, practical applications for educators.

Her basic philosophy is this:

Fixed mindsets are an approach to life where you believe your abilities and options in this world are (surprise) fixed. In the classroom, this might translate to “I’m just not a math student,” or “I’m not going to try out for the basketball team because I’m not athletic.” It can also manifest itself in what may feel like a more positive way — “I’m so smart, I don’t need to work hard on this,” or “You finished that work so quickly! You’re a genius!”

Growth mindsets are approach to life where you believe you abilities and options in life are open. In the classroom, this might translate to “If I work hard enough, I can get this math question,” or “I may not be a basketball expert yet, but I’ll practice and make the team.” In self-talk or teacher talk, it might look like “I’m smart because I work really hard and keep learning,” or “I can tell you worked really hard on this. It shows in the quality of your work, I’m very impressed!”

Dweck’s thesis, unsurprisingly, is that people who have or are exposed to fixed mindsets are limited in their achievements. Mistakes become endings rather than beginnings, effort is not only undesirable, but fruitless, and criticism is final judgement instead of an opportunity for growth. These people avoid challenges and are jealous of others’ success. Dweck contends that those who are exposed to or think with growth mindsets are more open to challenges because they believe effort can overcome almost anything, criticism is constructive (not destructive) and others’ success is just inspiration for their eventual accomplishments. (Click infographic at left for a visual.)

The book, I found, was not terribly well organized. Although it had well marked chapters on Mindset in Sports, Relationships, School and Business, this is only after 80 pages of introductory information – in which she uses examples from those worlds to make her point about mindsets. It does come off a bit repetitive, then, when you get to the chapters. Her examples repeat from chapter to chapter as well  — poor tennis star John McEnroe, for instance, takes a regular beating throughout the book for his fixed mindset. But there are some incredibly important lessons to take into your classroom (or work!)

Praise effort, not talent. When you tell a student “You learned that so quickly! You’re a genius!” You’re telling students that if something does not come easy, they are not smart. Instead, try saying “You did that very quickly – it must be too easy for you. Let’s find you something to do where you can really learn something.”

Mistakes should be encouraged, not discouraged. We all know this is key to a welcoming and safe classroom environment, and Dweck’s mindset philosophy only emphasizes this. Mistakes are always opportunities for learning, and should never feel like a door of opportunity shutting.

Emphasize the process, not result. Instead of “You got 92 on this essay! Amazing!” focus instead on the process of learning that went into it – “You really explored character development in a way you haven’t yet this year. Take me through what you were thinking so we can keep doing it.”

Ability is not fixed from year to year. Absolutely it’s helpful and important to know where a student stood coming into your classroom, and his previous teacher can be your best friend. Dweck warns educators and parents not to get caught in a fixed mindset about ability. Last year’s report card is just that —  last year’s.

While a lot of this seems like common sense, I’m sure we’ve all caught ourselves praising talent over effort and pigeon-holing abilities, especially after the Primary Years. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a good read simply for the kick in the pants-style reminder it offers on a personal level and as an educator. Luckily, Dweck rightly acknowledges that these mindsets can’t be changed overnight, but (like her growth mindset philosophy) is a continued process and effort.


TED Talk: Media Exposure and Early Childhood

My fellow-educator, sister, and mother to my adorable 9-month old niece is on the hunt for quality daycare as she returns to the classroom. She’s discovered, much to her chagrin, a large number of in-home daycare facilities that not only have televisions in their play rooms, but even have them running during her interview with them. If it’s not off while you’re trying to put your best food forward, is it ever going to be?

She introduced me to this fantastic TEDxTalk on media and children. Dimitri Christakis — a pediatrician, parent, and researcher — speaks to optimal media exposure for infants and primary-aged youth. It’s a good reflection not just for Early/Primary years educators, but for all of us who work with children! Now excuse me while I go order some Mr. Rogers DVDs…

This Week in Canadian History (Feb 20-26)

Feb 20, 1959 – The Avro Arrow program is cancelled under the Diefenbaker administration. Diefenbaker explains the cancellation to the CBC: “Having regards to the development that was taking place, particularly in intercontinental ballistic missiles, there was a probability that action would have to be taken in this regard… We were loath to take it.” For more CBC coverage of the cancellation, visit here. For coverage of the program, visit here.

Feb 21, 1891 – 125 boys and men were killed in a fire that quickly spread in the Number 1 and Number 2 collieries in the coal mines of Springhill, Nova Scotia. Full report, including a list of the dead, available through this archive.

Feb 22, 2010 – Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win gold – and the hearts of Canadians – at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. The pair were the youngest Olympic ice dancing winners. Full (American coverage, sorry) of their Free Dance below. Just try to resist their charms.

Feb 23, 1909 – John A.D. McCurdy becomes the first British subject to fly a “heavier-than-air,” powered airplane in Canada and the British Commonwealth. Listen to McCurdy reflect on his flight of the Silver Dart in a radio interview forty-years later here.

Feb 24, 1663 – King Louis XIV (France) revokes the charter granted to La Compagnie des Cent-Associés (The Company of One Hundred Associates), and New France becomes a crown colony of France.

– 1986 – Tommy Douglas dies in Ottawa, Ontario. Douglas was the former Saskatchewan premier of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), national leader of the New Democratic Party, and is widely considered the father of the Canadian healthcare system. Douglas was declared “The Greatest Canadian” in a CBC competition in November, 2004.

Relocation of Japanese-Canadians to Internment camps in the interior of B.C. © Library and Archives Canada / C-046355

Feb 25, 1942 – Wartime Prime Minister Mackenzie King announces the Order in Council PC1486, which designates a number of restrictions on Japanese-Canadians, including the forced removal of all those living within 100 miles of the Pacific Coast to internment camps in the Canadian interior.

Feb 26, 1920 – The Dominion Elections Act is passed by Robert Borden’s Conservative government, expanding the number of Canadians eligible to vote in federal elections to those male or female above 21. However, the Act still contained a number of restrictions, and “many individuals were still disenfranchised by administrative arrangements, and some groups were disqualified on racial, religious or economic grounds” (Elections Canada.)

Happy Family Day/Louis Riel Day/Islander Day everyone!

Like this feature? Check out The Canadian Encyclopedia, Today in Canadian History and the CBC Archives for more just like it!


History isn’t in black-and-white

I recently stumbled across some amazing photos – I just had to share them! The source post isn’t exactly new (2010), but as I’ve just found them, I’m hoping they might be new to some of you as well.

These are colour photographs taken in 1909-1912 Russia. I’ve provided two examples below and you’ll have to follow the jump to the original post, where there are a great selection of scenes. The photographer used a specialized camera – by capturing three black and white images in quick succession, but with red, green and blue filters, he was able to combine them for relatively true colour photographs.

The biggest problem for me was overcoming the apparently ingrained mental block in my mind that the past functions, at least in photographs and films, in black-and-white. These photographs really hit home the idea that history is not shades of grey, but instead vivid and colourful.

Prokudin-Gorskii rides along on a handcar outside Petrozavodsk on the Murmansk railway along Lake Onega near Petrozavodsk in 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/LOC)

Pinkhus Karlinskii, eighty-four years old with sixty-six years of service. Supervisor of Chernigov floodgate, part of the Mariinskii Canal system. Photo taken in 1909. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/LOC)

For more, visit here.

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