Museum partnering with Elementary students to connect with island history

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, January 6 2016

It’s all about telling stories. Stories of Gabriolans - stories of where the island has come from - and how people can continue telling those stories.

April Warn-Vannini and other volunteers from the Gabriola Museum and Historical Society will be launching a pilot program this January with the Grade 6/7 students at Gabriola Elementary School.

Warn-Vannini said the program started a year and a half ago, as     the Museum volunteers developed it around digital storytelling.

“Ways in which the museum could teach others how to do digital storytelling to gather the oral tales of Gabriola from people who have them to tell.”

Thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Hamber Foundation, the pilot is able to launch.

“The project is trying to connect students with Gabriola history.”

WI Hall will be the first subject, with Hazel Windecker taking the students through the many changes the hall has gone through, from north end classroom to the present-day home of the Gabriola Arts Council.

As Warn-Vannini said, “Hazel Windecker is, simply, Hazel. She has a huge amount of information to share with the students.”

While many longtime islanders may know Hazel, Warn-Vannini said none of the students knew her.

“The project is not just telling stories, but also making those intergenerational connections.”

The three themes the project will revolve around are Collect, create, and connect.

Collecting is how to accumulate information, either through primary or secondary sources. 

“Interviews, reading stories, journals, doing internet research, going to the archives. They are going to gather those information.”

For the create phase, the students will then learn how to prepare it for presentation (newspaper, play, blog, et cetera).

“We want to get students to collect information, digest and learn about the history, and then how to create.

“I don’t know what they’re going to create - I’m leaving it in their hands.

“Connection goes beyond just showing the work they did - the connections they make with other organizations on Gabriola. The Museum, Arts Council, the connection is happening with the people and information they are learning about.”

Right now, the focus is on the WI Hall. Future programs could look at other historical buildings or other stories.

The students will get to go through the archives of the Museum on field trips.

During one such trip already, students were shown a magazine made in the late 1930s on Gabriola.

Warn-Vannini said, “These were [stories by] Gabriola students, at a Gabriola school. Artifacts that aren’t typically out there for the public we’ll be pulling these out for the GES students. They’ll see school work students did that time. A ledger of who was in school in the 1890s, They get to see this information, use it, take pictures of it, create their own projects, create their learning with other people.  It goes outside of the school community.

“The role of the museum is to tell Gabriola stories - we’re always looking for volunteers and for people to help us. There are only so many projects we can take on. We know there are so many stories out there - whether from the 1920s or more current. Whether those stories are oral or written - the idea is for students to learn about other people’s experience of an event. Oral history is a qualitative history - it is the colourful esthetics that we learn about.”

As the program progresses, other mentors and speakers are being put together to come in and talk to the students about their roles in community storytelling and history gathering.