In this challenge, students determine the most powerful symbols of democracy in the Alberta Legislature by first exploring the meaning of symbolism and then locating and photographing symbols found in the Alberta Legislature. In selecting the three most powerful symbols, students employ one or more of three democratic methods of decision making—direct vote, consensus, representation.
Have students explore the concept of symbolism by bringing in objects that symbolize something in their lives. Use familiar symbols, e.g., school crest, Canadian flag, community logo, and discuss what it means to the school (or to you). Prompt student discussion by asking questions such as: Does what you wear tell others something meaningful about you? Does your hairstyle symbolize something about you? Suggest to students that provinces have symbols too, and ask them to identify symbols for Alberta, for example, mountains and oil derricks.
Establish criteria for a powerful symbol
Suggest to students that a symbol represents something that is important to us. Invite students to develop criteria for a powerful symbol. You may want to consider the following criteria:
- personally meaningful—Does the symbol connect to our lives as individuals or as members of a group or collective (e.g., we may think that the Rocky Mountains are the most beautiful area of Alberta)?
- visually interesting or pleasing—Can we identify with or do we like the look of the symbol?
- informative—Does the symbol tell something important about the object that it symbolizes (e.g., mountains are a major physical feature of Alberta)?
Determine the most powerful symbol in Alberta’s flag
Ask students to identify the symbols in Alberta’s flag. Based on the established criteria, ask students to determine which of the identified symbols is the most powerful symbol of Alberta. Invite students to justify their choice of the most powerful symbol. Teachers may wish to access The Citizens Guide to the Alberta Legislature—The Emblems of Alberta for a coloured illustration of the flag and information about the symbols (see References).
Locate and photograph symbols in the Alberta Legislature
Numerous symbols are found in the Alberta Legislature—in the architecture, flags, crests and various objects. Arrange for students to take an actual tour of the Alberta Legislature or to do a virtual tour by accessing the Virtual Visit: Step Inside the Alberta Legislature to locate symbols in the Legislature building. Using the camera feature built into the Virtual Visit: Step Inside the Alberta Legislature, invite students to choose and photograph 5 to 10 symbols within the Legislature building that represent democracy in Alberta. You may want students to view the interviews with the Sergeant-at-Arms discussing symbols of democracy found in the Alberta Legislature.
Select powerful symbols of democracy
Invite students to select three symbols they have photographed that are the most powerful symbols of democracy. Remind students that they should base their choices on the criteria established above. Review with students the key principles of democracy. Remind students to justify their choices by providing supporting evidence.
You may want to adapt the Options Checklist in Considering Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Model democratic decision making
Arrange for students to share and explain their choices. As a class, choose the three most powerful symbols of democracy found in the Alberta Legislature. Suggest to students that there are three democratic methods to use when deciding on the symbols:
- direct democracy—each student votes and majority rules
- representative democracy—representatives of student groups make the decisions on the most powerful symbols
- consensus—the class, as a whole, agrees on the most powerful symbols.
Conduct a student vote using one or more of the methods to demonstrate democratic decision making.
Extension: Debrief and reflect
Invite students to debrief and reflect on the democratic methods of decision making to further student understanding of the workings of democracy.