Historians of Canada likely know the Champlain Society best for its handsome red volumes. These collections of documentary materials have been gracing the shelves of libraries and individual members for over a century, part of the Champlain Society’s mission “to increase public awareness of, and accessibility to, Canada’s rich store of historical records.”
Recently, the Champlain Society has been expanding beyond the red volumes into other means of helping people connect with historical records. Here we would like to highlight a selection of resources that are being used to teach and learn history at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.
The aim of this series is to “provide teachers in elementary and secondary schools with new tools for teaching primary sources to engage students directly in understanding the past.” Three packages are currently available on the Champlain Society website and free for all to use. They may be read online or downloaded in a form suitable for printing.
- “Building the Habitation: An Educational Resource for Teaching and Learning about Samuel de Champlain at Québec, 1608” is designed to help students from Grades 4-8 learn about early European colonization in North America with a focus on the settlement of Québec. Teachers are provided with a short introduction to the St Lawrence Valley in the early seventeenth century; a lesson plan; excerpts from Samuel de Champlain and Innu oral history; and optional additional activities for a variety of subjects and grade levels.
- “Perspectives on the Habitation: An Educational Resource for Teaching and Learning about the Place of Québec in the Early Modern World” is designed to help students from Grades 11-12 analyze primary sources to understand the settlement of Québec in a wider historical context. Teachers are provided with a short introduction to the St Lawrence Valley in the early seventeenth century; a lesson plan; excerpts from Samuel de Champlain and Innu oral history; a list of recommended secondary sources; and optional additional activities for a variety of subjects.
- “James Wolfe in Canada: An Educational Resource Using Primary Sources form the Champlain Society” presents letters by James Wolfe to help students think about questions of historical significance. Teachers are provided with a short introduction to James Wolfe; an outline of historical thinking concepts; advice on how to guide students through primary sources; excerpts from Wolfe’s letters edited by Lawrence Ostola; activities on reading primary sources, reading secondary sources, and commemoration; and optional additional activities.
- Packages on colonialism, hockey, and the home front during the First World War are being developed for future release.
Each posting in this series focuses on a single “finding”: a document from an archive, a photograph from a private collection, even a building in a town. Teachers at the secondary and postsecondary levels can assign these brief essays to draw students into the process of understanding something about the past from close examination of a single piece of evidence. All postings in the Findings / Trouvailles series are free for all to access.
- Postings typically include an essay of about 1200 words that is scholarly in accuracy and accessible in tone; one or more images; and some additional suggested readings.
- Some postings are tied to famous figures in political history, but many are about lesser-known people or events.
- More than one hundred postings have been released. The Findings / Trouvailles archive is searchable by keyword.
Witness to Yesterday / Témoins d’hier
This podcast features interviews with historians about their recent and ongoing work. It is currently hosted by Greg Marchildon, Nicole O’Byrne, Larry Ostola, and Simon Nantais, and sponsored by the LR Wilson Institute of History at McMaster University along with a consortium of publishers including the University of Toronto Press, UBC Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press, the University of Ottawa Press, and the University of Regina Press. Teachers at the secondary and postsecondary levels can direct students to episodes in order to showcase current developments in historical research and illuminate research methods that historians use when working through large projects.
- Episodes are typically about 30-40 minutes in length, and conversational in tone.
- More than two hundred episodes have been released.
Members of the Champlain Society and those belonging to an organization with a library membership have full access to the Champlain Society’s extensive digital collection of edited documentary sources. (Educators working within public and separate school boards across Canada can apply for a year of free unlimited access to the digital collection here.)
- The digital collection is organized by volume following the original print editions. It is fully searchable by keyword.
- Volumes can be downloaded as pdf files.
We hope that teachers and students will find these resources helpful in the teaching and learning of history. If you have suggestions for additional ways that the Champlain Society could help, whether something specific such as a particular topic for the podcast or a more general idea about educational outreach, please share your thoughts with us. We can be reached at email@example.com. And if you are not already a member of the Champlain Society, do please consider joining. Benefits include access to all Champlain Society publications, participation in the AGM, and support for the preservation of Canada’s documentary heritage.
Mairi Cowan, Chair of the Education Committee of the Champlain Society
Larry Ostola, President of the Champlain Society