Moosonee students connect with Wapusk

Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

Moosonee student video Moosonee student video
© Moosonee Public School

By Nancy Saunders

Moosonee Public School’s Grade 7/8 students recently entered Canada’s Coolest School Trip with a video about Wapusk National Park near Churchill, Manitoba. Titled Wapusk National Park - Not Just a Place to Camp! (English and Cree only), it is “an explanation of how Wapusk National Park is creating a bridge between the past and the future and a bridge between nations—pre-contact and afterwards.” I chatted with Andrea Sillius, the students’ teacher, about their video entry.

Why did you choose Wapusk National Park?

The climate and landscape of Wapusk National Park is much like that of the Moosonee/Moose Factory area. The name of the park is in Cree, and many of us in our class identify as Cree. Wapusk is home to the animals important to us both culturally and for hunting, except we don’t have polar bears. We know that in order to be able to continue using moose, caribou and geese as part of our food sources, they need a place to prosper and grow, a place that protects and researches these animals. Wapusk National Park has research centres to do just that. Wapusk National Park was something we could really understand and see as being an important part of Canada’s history, because it is our own history.

Have your students been to Parks Canada sites before?

Very few of them have been anywhere, never mind specifically to a national park.

What were some highlights of this project?

Our video had us learning about our own histories. Each student had really great ideas and oral history they had heard from their relatives. It was neat to see the students take pride in their own homes and personal histories. We took the strongest essays and most interesting facts to help write that portion of the Creative Brief for the contest.

It was an amazing team building and character building activity. I saw different students excelling in areas I never would have expected. We gave it our all and really worked hard at every aspect. I have never seen my students try so hard or cooperate on things so well. We were all learners and experts at one time or another during the process. I learned a lot from them. Best kind of project ever!

Moosonee student video Moosonee student video
© Moosonee Public School

It has shown us not only the value of Wapusk National Park, but has shown us our own culture and background. It has given us the opportunity to see what our ancestors’ lives were like, and given us a new appreciation for the history of all Aboriginal people and those first Europeans coming across the ocean and beginning to build our nation. Parks Canada is helping to preserve each of our histories and helping all of us to feel validated as an active and positive citizen of our vast and diverse country.

Ms. Sillius’ class received 1167 votes and while they did not make it to the top ten, there is no question as to the value of the project and its process!

Canada’s Coolest School Trip is part of the My Parks Pass program, a partnership between Parks Canada, Canadian Geographic Education, Historica Canada, Nature Canada and new this year Canadian Wildlife Federation. Together, the partners are working hard to connect young Canadians to their natural and historical treasures.

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