Heritage Fair projects are often personal for students

Column: 
January 31, 2018

Heritage Fairs draw a diverse group of projects fuelled by students’ imagination and passion. The culmination of the program is the provincial event held at Government House in Regina where regional winners compete.

The Heritage Fair program had upwards of 3,400 students participating last year and ideally, Heritage Saskatchewan would like to increase those numbers.

Currently there are five regional fairs in Saskatchewan. Four are hosted in the larger cities, such as Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Swift Current, while the fifth is hosted by The Saskatoon Tribal Council. The competition incorporates local and regional fairs with winning entries moving on from each level and ultimately to the provincial fair.

According to Heritage Saskatchewan Education Coordinator Katherine Gilks, the likes of Prince Albert, North Battleford, Yorkton and Weyburn are among several potential sites on the radar for the future, provided they can find sufficient numbers of teachers and volunteers.

Any students in grades 4 through 8 are eligible to participate in the Heritage Fair program. As an all-encompassing initiative, these events promote citizenship, stewardship and critical thinking, while the skills received have application across the curriculum.

Students choose their own topics and have the option whether they want to submit a written report, visual display or oral presentation. As one who has attended these events across the province, Gilks indicated that it is always rewarding to see the passion that is generated.

“My personal take away from these events is to see how these students really get into their projects. You can’t help but be impressed by their interest and imagination. A big part
of these projects is that it teaches students what it means to be Canadian and about their role in the world. It’s great to see their minds open up through their research and presentations.

“It’s amazing to see, and you find a lot of these projects are the result of a personal connection for the student. That’s inspiring, and especially for some of the younger students, it means being that much more aware of historical events like the Underground Railroad or the Titanic for example, and then how excited they are to share that knowledge.”

Predictably, Gilks said the emerging topic of residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is becoming much more popular, especially among the older students.

“Certainly that’s good in terms of the students examining the past and what it means now. For some it can definitely be a story of someone in their family, and so it’s very personal and powerful.”

The advancements in technology have also had a significant impact on how students present their respective projects. Whether it’s on their iPads, laptops, or in some cases creating videos to further enhance the story they are wanting to tell.

Gilks said one of the primary benefits for students and their teachers is that while there is a natural connection with social studies, there’s also direct implications in language arts, science and generally in the Inquiry Model of Learning.

Teachers or students who might want to know more about how to become involved can contact Gilks directly at kgilks@heritagesask.ca or by phone at 1-306-780-9197.