UCDSB Students “We Were Here” Project

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On May 27, 12 schools from across the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) gathered at the North Grenville Municipal Centre for a showcase event, highlighting their participation in the ‘We Were Here’ initiative, in collaboration with The Hill 70 Memorial Project.

At the showcase, The Hill 70 Memorial Project announced its donation of $21,000 towards sending a group of 21 UCDSB students and educators to France next school year. During the trip, they will further their research and share their findings with a broader audience, continuing their mission to honour and remember the brave soldiers who gave their lives over a century ago.

‘We Were Here’ aims to bring history to life by commemorating Canadian soldiers from the First World War.

In the Spring of 2022, approximately 120 soldiers were discovered in Loos-en-Gohelle, France, while construction crews were digging a foundation for a new hospital. In the fall of 2022, the UCDSB, in partnership with Big Ideas Group Consulting, Hill 70 Memorial Project, and many others, began The Hill 70 Project: Lost. Found. Always Remembered.

Since then, students across the district have been meticulously reviewing service records and attestation forms, uncovering key details about the lives of these soldiers, while also coming up with innovative ways to remember the fallen soldiers. Some of UCDSB schools projects include:

Athens District High School’s ‘A Journey Through Time’, where as part of their learning, students transformed a hallway into a replica of a WWI trench and engaged in a re-enactment;

Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School’s interactive honour roll project has students creating QR codes with soldier biographies to add to the school’s veterans honour roll;

Kemptville Public School was the first elementary school in the UCDSB to participate in building the online database;

North Dundas District High School students are creating metal crosses with QR codes with local soldiers’ histories;

Pakenham Public School’s ‘Pakenham Military Scavenger Hunt’, where students are creating picnic tables with QR codes for members of the public to find and learn about local fallen soldiers; and R. Tait McKenzie Public School’s research project that prompted a missing WWI veteran’s name be added to the Almonte Cenotaph.

Cameron Jones, UCDSB Principal of Real-World Learning and Student Success, praised the students for their dedication and the depth of their research. During the showcase event, he emphasized the importance of storytelling in making history relevant and meaningful for today’s youth.

“Today, there is power in storytelling. This project connects students with the lives of soldiers from over 100 years ago, making their stories come alive. By learning history through the eyes of those who lived it, our students help keep their memories and sacrifices relevant.”

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