cToday’s post is by our summer intern, Isabelle. She wrote a post introducing herself last week. And this week she’s writing about the immigration, migration and refugee project she is working on. Isabelle will be sharing her progress with us each week. 

My work on the outreach kit and school program about immigration, migration and refugees is well underway. Our guiding idea for the project is to tell the history through stories. This aligns with the First Nations Principle of Learning that “learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.”

Since I have not been formally trained in museum studies and education, I started by reading up on museum best practices and museum education. I learned a lot about pedagogy, especially for teaching school kids in museums.  

I also learned that I need to keep the big questions in mind for every stage of the project.

The Nova Scotia Museum identifies five things that a successful school program should do:

  • Address specific Curriculum outcomes
  • Focus on student-centred learning
  • Feature work with museum partners
  • Ask “good questions”
  • Include object-based activities 

I decided to start by looking at the BC Social Studies curriculum. Although I went through the BC education system myself, that was a few years ago, and the curriculum has been updated since then. I looked at the social studies curriculum for grades 5,6, 9 and 10, as those are the years that focus the most on immigration and related issues.

I looked at the content covered in the curriculum, and reviewed the Six Historical Thinking Concepts:

  1. Establishing Historical Significance
  2. Using Primary Source Evidence
  3. Identifying Continuity & Change
  4. Analyze Cause & Consequence
  5. Taking Historical Perspectives
  6. Ethical Judgement

 With these guidelines in mind, I started my research on immigration to BC. However, I cannot research everything, and we cannot tell every story in our outreach kit. So we have to ask two big questions:

  1. What/whose stories do we tell?
  2. Why do we tell these stories?

When deciding what stories to tell, we have to consider many questions:

  •  Which stories are important?
  • Which stories are interesting?
  • Which stories fit with the curriculum?
  • Which stories fit with the maritime focus of our museum?
  • Why are we telling these stories?

Finally, we have to ask whose stories we aren’t telling.

We have decided to use individual and family stories to convey the history of larger immigrant groups to BC. This approach presents us with some wonderful opportunities as well as some challenges.

Personal stories allow learners to develop an emotional connection with the historical person and to become invested in their story. This is especially true when teaching children about historical children. The focus on a real-life person from the past makes history less impersonal and reminds us that all those groups we often speak of were made up of complex individuals with hopes, dreams and fears.

It can be hard to find sources that tell the stories of individuals, and we have the additional difficulty of choosing whose stories to tell.

We also have to be careful about telling stories respectfully when talking about real people. This is especially important if those people are still living.

When figuring out how to tell these stories, we have to make sure that our storytelling method is:

  • Accurate
  • Respectful
  • Engaging for students
  • Developed with community involvement and consent

I keep these ideas and questions in mind as I continue with my research and writing. I welcome any comments, questions, concerns or suggestions from community members as I move forward with this project.

Here are some of the online resources that I have used in my research, if you are interested:

First Nations Principles of Learning: http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/PUB-LFP-POSTER-Principles-of-Learning-First-Peoples-poster-11×17.pdf

The Historical Thinking Project: https://historicalthinking.ca/historical-thinking-concepts

BC Social Studies Curriculum: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum/social-studies

Nova Scotia Museum Toolbox for Museum School Programs: https://museum.novascotia.ca/toolbox

The image used for this article is a photo of SS Africa Maru, a vessel that carried many Japanese immigrants to the Pacific Northwest in the early 20th century. The photo is from the VMM Collections, item no. PA096.002.