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Table of Contents



Community Studies
Making the World a Better Place
One Student Research Paper at a Time


Some Rich Tasks and Other Learning Activities

Public vs. Private Education Pioneers in the Benefits of De-Streamed Classrooms
The Ontario Curriculum in 1890 Learning by repetition has its merits; Be an Education Consultant
Oral History -- Education: 1920s and 1930s Design an Oral History Interview Project
Agriculture and Safety Being careful, Knowing what you're doing, Safety in the food chain; Agriculture as a system of integrated technologies
Agriculture as a Business Creating a new Institution; Farming in the SATEC neighbourhood, 1892
Fairness and Equity Equitable Distribution of Family Assets; Equity in Historiography 
Thinking Skills for Rich Tasks  
Feeding the Family in a Local Economy The evolving nutritional needs and expectations of the family
Learning Unit: Agriculture Mixed farming, horses, dairy cattle
Learning Unit: Character and Faith of the People  
Learning Unit: Education Where does education fit into the grand scheme of things -- to make the world a better place?
Learning Unit: Environment A metaphor for growing as a learner -- the Tree
Learning Unit: Housing Homelessness, Heat, Hardship
Learning Unit: Immigrants and Land  
Learning Unit: Public Health Disease, Health Care and Mortality
Learning Unit: Public Service Leadership, Civic Duty and Democracy
Learning Unit: Recreation Pastimes, Recreation, Fun at Work and Music  
Learning Unit: Transportation  


Our Past: Evolution of a Community

Schools in post-war Scarborough were first conceived some decades ago as a response to a need. Or, rather, the needs of the community were the product of over a century and a half of socio-economic development and evolution.  The history of this part of Toronto has an absolute host of cross-curricular educational possibilities. Digging into history – finding an issue, taking a stand, arguing a point -- is a great way to teach students critical thinking. And I would argue, the best way. This web sitewww.scarboroughrecord.com – is loaded with resource materials for community studies. The Education Resources start here.

A Drama About Local Historic Figures – Fundraiser for ScholarshipsA Drama About Local Historic Figures – Fundraiser for Scholarships

A play about important local figures in the history of southwest Scarborough could be part of a fundraising drive for scholarships. Let us consider one school in particular as an example of what other schools could also do.

For example, the original SATEC@WAPorter geographic area included the 100 acre farm immediately north of the school. For over half a century it was owned / operated by James Whiteford McCowan and his sons, George and Alexander.

Alex McCowan was the founder of the organization of Scarborough farmers that evolved into the “Dairy Farmers of Ontario”, formerly the Ontario Milk Marketing Board. This is of national significance. I understand that the Dictionary of Canadian Biography will include an entry about Alex McCowan in their next volume. It would be very fitting if some high school history students will write that biography.

One scene in the play could be about the school bullying endured by a local farmboy who stuttered at the turn of the century. This would have been in the one-room school at Eglinton and Birchmount, the closest rural-era school to SATEC.  The boy, David A. McCowan, later invented the Phototeria in 1928. This was one of the first photo booths in the world -- a book will be released shortly (American Photobooth: The History and Art of the Photobooth in the U.S. and Canada).  David was born at the southeast corner of Warden and Eglinton on the farm of Alex and Mary McCowan. The Phototeria is an excellent learning resource – one more-or-less complete Phototeria has survived.  

SATEC stands on the old Heron farm, another early Scarborough family. We have dozens of the interesting First World War letters (1916-18) of Captain John B. Heron and his wife, Ruth McCowan.  Captain Heron’s Boer War letters are at the National Archives.

GECO was the second world war munitions plant just north of SATEC. Many local people have stories about GECO -- and these should be recorded soon..

So there are at least four very unique and valuable chapters in Canadian history right here in the local SATEC neighbourhood. These true stories can all be told through a school drama production, weaving together a good number of Ontario curriculum expectations:

1.         The 1892 founding of the organization that later evolved into the Ontario Milk Marketing Board, the business group largely responsible for the survival of the family farm in Ontario .

2.         The 1916-1918 wartime letters of Captain John B. Heron and his wife.

3.         The 1928 invention of the Phototeria by the young man who had, growing up, “stammered lamentably”.

4.         Working at the GECO munitions plant during the second world war.

And of course, a fifth act in the play could be SATEC’s future role as a great institution for sustainability education.

Oral History Interview Projects – Engaging Students in the Community

Oral history interview projects are a great way to immerse students in the community – to learn about what it took to make the community what it is today. A number of oral history interview projects have been prepared as noted below.


Other Learning Opportunity Ideas and Community Projects

A number of the following additional ideas link our local past with our new future in sustainability education – several using the tree metaphor. Some of these ideas below focus on the tree as a multi-curricular learning tool. And most of the remainder comprise valuable lessons from the local Scarborough past in a variety of interesting ways.

NOTE: Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights is a publication of the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society.  



1)      English

a)      Take the main lead in Oral History Interview Projects: write the questions, transcribe, translate, interpret individual interviews and then link them / analyze them together as a published community collection. 

b)      Oral History Interview Projects include:

i)        Women and the Family Farm 

ii)      The Farm and the Environment 

iii)    Field, Food and Family 

iv)    GECO Munitions Plant just north of SATEC

v)      Immigration to Toronto

vi)    Farm-Bred Folk as Model Re-Cyclers and Re-Users

c)      The literature of Scarborough writers

d)     The influence of Robert Burns’ poetry on western society, in particular, Burns’ views on social sustainability.


2)      Stage Drama – A Sustainability Theme

a)      Play on a community history and socio-economic sustainability theme:

i)        Founding of the Milk Marketing Board movement. (Farming here was very “green” – much more green then than it is now elsewhere. Sustainability of an important economic sector – agriculture – an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.)

ii)      Invention of the Phototeria (new technology keeps the economy vibrant)

iii)    Heron / McCowan first world war letters (life on the farm; safety / the freedom and security aspect of sustainability)

iv)    GECO Munitions plant: oral history interviews

v)      SATEC’s future as a leader in Sustainability Education


3)      Language Studies

a)      Assist with Oral History Interview projects. I am very pleased to be helping with the new Celtic Studies program at Subway One Academy in Toronto (http://www.fletchersaga.net/L/LWCAD1.html). My very modest contribution thus far is a feudalism paper and student exercises. Oral history was a major feature of Celtic culture. Perhaps SATEC and Subway One Academy can collaborate on oral history interview projects – several examples below. Many Celtic peoples worshipped the tree.



4)      Science

a)      Trees as the critical key for the good health of the planet

b)      Composting of leaves

c)      Tornados and other natural disasters

d)     Oral History Interview Project: the Farm and the Environment


5)      Environmental Club

a)      Build an old-style cedar rail fence around the composting area and add informative signage

b)      Church erosion control study project

c)      Take long-term ownership of the composting project including community cooperation in the gathering and processing of wood and other green waste


Social Science

6)      Canadian History / Careers

a)      Write a biography of Alexander McCowan for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography

b)      Transcribe several existing audio tapes of David A McCowan, inventor of the Phototeria

c)      Write parts of the script for the school play, a historical drama

d)     Pre-history: The Robert Ashbridge McCowan and William Harold McCowan Collections of native Canadian artefacts include the earliest known evidence of human occupation in Toronto, approximately 8,000 BC 

e)      Immigrant Values: Building a Country  

f)       Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights

i)        P. 92: homelessness

ii)      P 140-1: careers and the job hunt


7)      Family Studies

a)      Oral History Interview Project: Women and the Family Farm

b)      The Story of St. Andrew’s Cemetery: infant mortality, deaths during childbirth; how health care has changed since over the past 200 years

c)      Disease, Health Care and Mortality 

d)     Housing 

e)      Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights

i)        p. 50: motherlessness; childhood mortality, water supply; epidemics

ii)      p. 55: character

iii)    p. 92: homelessness


8)      Civics / Community Involvement

a)      Write the script for the part of the school play relating to the letters written by Captain Heron and his wife, 1916-1918

b)      Organize and lead walking tours in the community 

c)     Design signage and maps for some Scarborough portions of the Waterfront Trail

d)      Immigrants and Land  

e)      The Value System of Immigrants and the role of Robert Burns writing in forming a just society 

f)      Character and Faith of the People 

g)      Philanthropy in Education – and help with scholarship program fundraising

h)        Public Service 

i)        Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights

i)        p. 87: public service and civic duty; the war effort on the home front (1916-18); civics and gender equity -- women getting the "right to vote"

ii)      p. 140-1: character education -- when opportunity knocks...


9)  Geography

a)      The significance of trees in the development of the local community: log cabins, barns, potash production, furniture making, vehicle manufacture, fancy wood trim for farmhouses in the more affluent era for farmers

b)      Oral History Interview Projects

i)      Development of farms after the second world war

ii)      Farming on Kingston Road

iii)    The Farm and the Environment

c)     Transportation 

d)      Agriculture 

e)       Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights

i)        p. 27: urban and transportation route planning

ii)      p. 28: landforms -- Lake Iroquois shoreline

iii)    p. 38: the importance of land

iv)    p. 120: urban planning -- subdivision development

Technology, Business and Art

10)  Photography

a)      Study the one Phototeria that has survived and "what makes it tick"

b)      Make a video of the historical drama and produce a commemorative DVD 


11)  Computer Engineering

a)      Use an empty shell Phototeria to make a digital photobooth 


12)  Computer Science

a)      Produce a commemorative DVD, including photographs, the entire script of the play and the outcomes of many of the learning opportunities listed here


13)  Art

a)      Design a piece of public art for the main hallway, for example a historic technology / natural history collage

b)      Produce illustrations for a commemorative DVD regarding community history (scenes from the play for example)

c)      Produce signage and maps for the Scarborough portions of the Waterfront Trail


14)  Business / Economics

a)      Write the script for the school play Act relating to the founding of the Ontario milk marketing movement

b)      Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights

i)        p. 28: economic development of Scarborough

ii)      p. 38: wages; rate of inflation of land prices; exchange rates (pounds sterling / dollar)

iii)    p. 87: founding of the Ontario milk marketing movement, a profoundly important business institution

iv)    p. 92: the depression; rationing

v)      p. 96: importance of philanthropy in education

vi)    p. 120: risk-taking

vii)  p. 140-1: careers and the job hunt


15)  Technology

a)      Props for the school play

b)      Sound / lighting for the play

c)      Write the script for the school play relating to the research and development of the Phototeria in 1928

d)     Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro  Heights

i)        p. 27:  vehicle brakes: hydraulic vs mechanical brakes

ii)      p. 98: Structures

iii)    p. 140-1: careers and the job hunt



16)  Math

a)      Mathematics in Nature: leaf patterns for example

b)      Math and the Phototeria: gear ratios, pulley ratios (a physical Phototeria is available for “reverse-engineering” by students)

c)      Math and Economics / Profitability: the price of milk and cost of running a dairy farm, 1892 and today

d)     Women in Mathematics 

e)      Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights

i)        page 27: planking Kingston Road using local trees

ii)      p. 38: wages; rate of inflation of land prices; exchange rates (pounds sterling / dollar)


School-Wide Initiatives

17)  Black History

a)      Oral History Interview Project: Immigration to Toronto

b)      The narrator for the Phototeria act of the play could be in the role of a past employee of McCowan Manufacturing Ltd., founded by David A. McCowan of Scarborough


18)  Ad Club

a)      Promote the school play, the goal of which could be to start a scholarship fundraising drive

b)      Promote the Photobooth book launch, which could be an initial fundraiser


19)  School Action Team 

a)      Help write the script for the schoolyard bullying scene in the Phototeria Act of the school play


20)  Friends of the Library

a)      Create a special reference section for local history with promotional posters and a display outside the library


21)  Guidance

a)      Promote SATEC’s future role in preparing a new generation of sustainability professionals


22)  Special Education

a)      Help write the script for the schoolyard bullying scene in the Phototeria Act of the school play – the bullying victim “stammered lamentably”

Exemplary Historic Figures with a Local Connection

James Whiteford McCowan, owner of the 100 acre farm immediately north of SATEC, was the second son of James McCowan, bankrupted Coalmaster and farmer from Lanarkshire, Scotland. Some of James W. McCowan’s descendants made significant contributions to Canadian society:

  • Grandson Clark Young was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame (born and farmed at Warden / Fourteenth Avenue in Markham) 
  • Granddaughter Bena McCowan worked toward strengthening the Ontario retired women teachers superannuation (lived in northeast Scarborough for a time on her father's farm, James, nephew of Uncle Willie)
  • Granddaughter Jennie McCowan Mahaffy was a pillar of support during an expedition to investigate the possibility of eliminating yellow fever in West Africa (daughter of George and born at Warden / Eglinton)
  • Great grandson George McCowan was producer / director of Charlie’s Angels, Starsky and Hutch and other Hollywood TV series
  • Grandson David A. McCowan was inventor of the Phototeria (born at Warden / Eglinton)
  • Son Alexander McCowan was founder of the movement that later evolved into the Ontario Milk Marketing Board (born at Warden / Eglinton) 

Please send comments and questions to me at david.mccowan@tdsb.on.ca or bmccowan@netrover.com.



David Bruce McCowan, P.Eng., BASc., OCT, B.Ed.
Mathematics and Technological Design Teacher
SATEC@W.A. Porter Collegiate Institute, Toronto