“Coordination, Capacity-Building and Communication” is the title for Northview Heights’ Historians. The grade 10 students’ submission to Defining Moments Canada “Recovering Canada” Contest for their digital storytelling project about the Spanish Influenza Pandemic in Toronto resulted in top spot in Canada. It also describes how they worked as a classroom community to put the entire project together.
The goal was for students to learn about the decisions and actions of Toronto politicians, scientists, health care providers, public health educators and community volunteers who responded to the Spanish Influenza Pandemic in Toronto from 1918-20. After completing their research, the students shared the stories of these individuals by creating Sketch notes to illustrate their findings (placed upon objects that would have belonged to these individuals) and also by writing Bio-Poems which tell about the incredible stories that they uncovered. They audio-recorded themselves reading these bio poems, all of which were published on a website https://nhsshistorians.wixsite.com/toronto-spanishflu.
Each of the stories was told from a different perspective and object that would have belonged to the Torontonian whose story they were telling. For example, the story of Dr. Charles Hastings, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health was told from the perspective of the many files in his briefcase. Health Educator to the Sisters of Service in Ontario (S.O.S) Dr. Margaret Patterson’s story was told from the viewpoint of her teaching blackboard. A box of food and supplies told of the efforts of Mr. Frank Stapleford, Founding Director of the Neighbourhood Workers Association, while a lab coat told the story of Dr. Robert D. Defries, Leader of the Antitoxin Lab at the Connaught Laboratories, University of Toronto. Furthermore, a 3D model of the flu virus itself recorded Edward G.R. Ardagh’s story; he was a Professor of Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto. Finally the work of “honourary Torontonian” Amelia Earhart who was a volunteer nurse at the Spadina Base Hospital was told from the perspective of her nurses uniform.
Student Ethan McFarland, whose group told Amelia Earhart’s story, stated “Telling stories of people through personal belongings is a much more effective way to tell the stories of things like the Spanish Influenza in Toronto because it allows everyone to connect to the project.” Teacher Katy Whitfield said, “The most amazing part about this digital storytelling project was seeing how every student became engaged in doing the inquiry-based work and drew upon their own interests and skills when working collaboratively with their peers.” The students came to understand the groundwork of modern day health and healthcare policy-making, about how preparation and emergency response protocols served us and continue to serve today as exemplars for how to effectively coordinate, capacity build and communicate.
Staff and students at Northview Heights are very proud of the work of the Northview Heights Historians whose project was chosen amongst 35 national submissions and judged by experts from coast-to-coast. Their creatively designed and beautifully articulated collaborative projects are strong evidence of their hard word. As student Vandan expressed, “As historians we have worked hard and have proven that we have the ability to think critically, be creative and can achieve something if we have the will to do so.” Indeed, amazing work by students that took equal amounts of coordination, capacity-building and communication!