Young Citizens 2014

Young Citizens 2014 – Finalists’ Trip to Ottawa

By Katherine Gilks, Education Coordinator at Heritage Saskatchewan

In mid-May, I met six young students (in Grades 4 and 5 at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys School in Regina) who were in the process of creating videos of their Heritage Fair projects.  Immediately, I was impressed with their work!  Through workshops provided by Adrian Halter of Adjile Productions Inc., the students had learned to storyboard, edit, and add effects to create four-minute videos about such diverse heritage topics as their grandmother’s immigration, the Famous Five, the Hotel Saskatchewan, St. Anthony’s Parish, historic architecture in rural Saskatchewan, and chuckwagon racing. 

The six students submitted their videos this past June to the Young Citizens contest run by Canada’s History Society. A national contest that was conducted in this province through Heritage Saskatchewan, the Young Citizens contest is an extension of the Heritage Fairs program and provides an opportunity for individual students to create a four-minute video about their Heritage Fair topic.  The videos were posted online mid-June and the public was invited to vote to determine who would be selected as a finalist, who would then have their video evaluated by a judging panel from Canada’s History and be eligible to win the grand prize of a trip to Ottawa to participate in the Young Citizens Forum from Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2014.

This year, two winners were selected from each province to participate in the Forum and receive an award from Canada’s History. Saskatchewan’s winners were Ella Forrest (for her video My Oma’s Story) and Dylan Donald (for his video Chuckwagon Racing), now both in Gr. 6. 

Ella and Dylan (along with myself) headed off to Ottawa on Oct. 30 in the wee hours of the morning, accompanied by a selection of their family members.  Upon our arrival in the nation’s capital, we were introduced to our counterparts from Manitoba and Alberta for our ride downtown from the airport. By that evening, 22 eager students from across Canada (along with 12 chaperones representing Heritage Fairs in each province and the Yukon) had arrived at the Lord Elgin Hotel.  They shared a love of history and heritage, but yet represented a wide variety of personalities and interests.  There was a wide age range (from 10 to 16) and a bit of a language barrier for some, but all had a great time! Ella and Dylan were wonderful ambassadors for our province. As well, they got to meet new friends in their roommates from New Brunswick and Newfoundland, respectively.

Together, we all got opportunities to visit the Bytown Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, the Parliament Buildings, the National War Memorial, Rideau Hall, the Byward Market, and the Canadian War Museum.  It was an unforgettable experience for students and chaperones alike! We even got to trick or treat at 24 Sussex Drive, albeit only at the gates for security reasons.  The Harpers had over 100 carved pumpkins lining the fence along the front of their home!

The events of the week were slightly clouded by the attack at the National War Memorial and the Centre Block of Parliament on Oct. 22.  Our tour leader and various tour guides were deeply affected by the events to the point of breaking down in tears talking about it – noticeably a different response than some of the students, for whom Ottawa had been merely a location on the news until this trip.  Our visit to the National War Memorial was especially poignant as it was adorned with wreaths and surrounded by so many bouquets that some of my photos look as though they planted flower boxes in full bloom around the base of the monument.  Although we were in Ottawa for Hallowe’en, the lessons of Remembrance Day were at the foremost of everyone’s mind.

In addition to the Young Citizens Forum, I met with my provincial counterparts as well as Canada’s History to discuss the state of Heritage Fairs on a national level and ideas for 2017.  Many good things came from that meeting which will hopefully be realised in the next three years – stay tuned!

Furthermore, meeting my provincial counterparts (i.e. fellow chaperones) gave me the opportunity to learn from their experience, as I was the youngest, newest, and most naïve/optimistic adult face at the table.  Just being able to discuss our respective challenges and triumphs in our own provinces was a gift – it was evident that this type of face-to-face meeting was needed from our first meal together when we immediately started discussing Heritage Fairs before the first cups of coffee and tea had been served at Friday’s breakfast!

All students and adults together left the trip with a renewed appreciation for our shared Canadian heritage.  Whether it was trick-or-treating together or viewing our national capital or seeing clips of each other’s videos, it was clear that we have much in common – especially our mutual passion for our heritage and history.

Thank you to Canada’s History for facilitating such a program, and thank you to Ella and Dylan (along with their families, teachers, and school) for participating in Heritage Fairs and Young Citizens!

On the trip, it was formally announced that the Young Citizens contest has been renewed for 2015, 2016, and 2017.   We will select our Saskatchewan students during the Regional Fairs season in April/May, giving this year’s entrants four to six weeks to create their videos before the deadline of June 5th, 2015. We at Heritage Saskatchewan look forward to seeing what this year’s students will create, what historical questions they will ask, and what stories they will tell us!

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