Archived — Exemplary Practices 2008

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Teaching the big history … and the little stories

Teaching the big history … and the little storiesChristian Lagueux teaches at the Polyvalente de Saint-Georges in Saint-Georges, Quebec and his brother Jean-Pierre teaches at the Polyvalente Bélanger in Saint-Martin, Quebec. For a long time, they have collaborated to make learning about history and it's cultural context a more immediate and stimulating activity for young people. Their project involving the reproduction of historical objects is a perfect example. Jean-Pierre Lagueux explains that the activity requires four types of inter-disciplinary skills. The students develop their ability to synthesize information while searching for facts about the object they have chosen to recreate. While making the object, they use their creativity and artistic talents. Their language skills are challenged as they prepare fact sheets on what they have created. And in the final step, they publish their achievements on the Web, and in the process, expand their knowledge of information technologies.

For the past seven years, their students' historical creations have been exhibited at the Christmas in New France event in Quebec City, where thousands of visitors have admired the artefacts. "The artefacts our students made for the Christmas in New France event seemed so genuine that some visitors wanted to buy them," Christian Lagueux said proudly while displaying some of the youngsters' creations. The sculptures, pots, ceramics, fabrics, clothing, documents, pictures and dishes all reflect daily life in New France between 1608 and 1759. "We take this very seriously," Christian Lagueux points out. "Students have to use the materials and the methods of the era, and beware anachronisms!"

Jean-Pierre Lagueux says that this teaching method puts students in touch with the daily lives of people from that era. "Some of them decided to embroider an alphabet book, as the young students of the Ursulines did, to learn their ABCs. Back then, school was run by the catholic church and the nuns demanded perfection. If you made a mistake when you embroidered a letter, you had to do it over again until it was perfect. The same rule applied to our students, who quite quickly grasped the importance of a job well done."

The two teachers stress practical learning to help their students discover their own social universe. Knowing that few young people understood the parliamentary system of government in Quebec and Canada, the Langueux brothers restructured the student council to encourage students to follow the parliamentary model of governance. "This project generated lively interest and was adopted all over Quebec," Jean-Pierre Lagueux explains. "The National Assembly was so impressed by the activity that it now provides support for schools that want to try the experiment."

Always looking for hands-on learning opportunities for their students, the Lagueux brothers began working with partners and have now expanded the scope of their projects. They have collaborated with the National Battlefields Commission and have even developed a project that allowed their students, via the Internet, to "accompany" Christian in Tunisia, where he was taking part in archeological digs. "This was done as part of a general course in ancient history," Mr. Lagueux explains. "The subject matter was Egypt, Rome and the birth of Europe. It was a real pleasure, for example, to be able to show them mosaics that no one else had seen for 2,000 years."

Christian Lagueux hopes to be able to repeat the experience, because even in the last few years, technology has advanced considerably, he explains, and as a result he would be able to make the experience an even more immediate one for the students.