As a possible culminating activity, students explore how key historical events shaped Canada's collective identity by designing a poster or painting to illustrate the two most influential events. Students might consider events such as the Statute of Westminster, the adoption of the Canadian flag and the patriation of the Constitution.
Discuss Canadian identity
Write the statement "I am Canadian" and invite students to discuss what it means to be a Canadian:
- Who are Canadians?
- What makes Canadians different from other nationalities?
- Why are Canadians this way?
- How do other people/nations in the world view us?
Generate and record a list of traits. Suggest that who we are as Canadians—our collective identity—is shaped by our history and past events. Be careful to point out that not everyone living in Canada thinks of themselves as Canadian. For a variety of reasons, some people, notably some First Nations, Francophones in Québec and immigrants, may not identify themselves as Canadian.
Review key events in Canadian history
Identify a number of key events in Canadian history that students have previously studied or could easily research. These events might include the following:
- the Statute of Westminster
- Lester B. Pearson's work with the United Nations
- adoption of the Canadian flag
- amendments to the Constitution in 1982
- development of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- creation of Nunavut.
Prepare and share summaries of historical events
Ask students to summarize one of the above events. Encourage students to use the 5Ws and H questions as a structure.
- Who were the key players in the event?
- What were the important stages/developments/components?
- Where did the event take place?
- When did the event occur?
- Why was it important?
- How did it influence Canada's identity?
Review the criteria for effective note taking, such as using your own words, selecting key words/phrases and including important details. Ask students to write notes on chart paper so they can be posted for later use.
You may wish to adapt one of the strategies and charts found in Reporter's Log (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
After groups have completed their research, invite them to share what they have learned with the class.
Look for possible impact of the historical events
Ask students to work together to think of how each event might influence life today and how the event might influence our collective identity. Encourage students to look beyond their own community.
The following is an example of the effect of the adoption of Canada's national flag.
Evidence It Is Present Today
Adoption of Canadian flag
- hangs in classrooms, buildings, embassies
- worn on team uniforms
- found on government documents
- waved at special events
- visual symbol that says "I am Canadian"
- globally associates Canadians with positive symbols—peacekeepers, friendly
Rate the impact of historical events
Ask students to rate, individually, the impact of each of the events on Canadian identity.
You may wish to adapt one of the charts found in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Create posters or paintings of the two most influential events
Invite students to create a poster or painting illustrating the impact of the two most influential events on Canada's collective identity.
To explore artistic styles, you might want to invite students to create their work in the style of a specific artist, perhaps someone like George Littlechild, a prolific Aboriginal artist. Examples of Littlechild's work can be found in a book entitled We Are All Related: A Celebration of Our Cultural Heritage (see References), written by elementary students. This might also be an opportunity for students to use software programs such as Kid Pix, Photoshop Elements or MS Paint.
Develop criteria for effective posters and paintings
Discuss criteria for effective posters and paintings, including the following:
- has a dominant central image—shows a detailed visual representation of the two most significant events that shaped Canadian identity
- covers the key facts of the events—tells the story of two events
- clearly shows the relationship to Canadian identity—uses symbols or images to illustrate how each event influenced Canadian identity
- is visually appealing—is clear and attractive
- is in the style of a particular artist; e.g., George Littlechild.
Assemble the finished posters and paintings to resemble a large quilt.