Engaging in the Research Process
Every once in a while a teacher is blessed with the presence in his or her class of a student such as Shara Weaver. As part of her OAC History course at Sir Wilfrid Laurier C.I. in Scarborough, Shara was assigned an independent study unit. This process involves different self-selected areas of study that each learner pursues in a personalized manner. Independent learning is a system of self-instruction that operates within the total system of class instruction. It suggests that the individual student possesses the capacity for self-initiative, self-discipline, resourcefulness and productivity.
When Bruce McCowan approached me with the proposal of having a student do primary research on the topic of Farming On The Homestead of William P. McCowan, I knew I had the perfect opportunity for Shara to develop all those characteristics so important to being a life-long learner.
It was not your typical history assignment. There were no neatly categorized sources in the vertical file and no encyclopedia summaries. It was a topic that was challenging and potentially frustrating. Yet it was those very barriers that attracted Shara. Here was something that truly no one had done before and could become "real history" - not just another essay!
In recent years there has been a tremendous interest in ethnological history. This is sometimes referred to as history from the bottom up. Unfortunately, the increasingly crowded curriculum precludes such history from being taught in our schools. For example, at present, the only required history course that a student must take in order to graduate is a contemporary Canadian and World Concerns course, which concentrates on events of the last 40 years.
Students must see the value of preservation of our local history. In our "scratch and win" oriented society that emphasizes instant gratification, it is increasingly difficult to convince students today of the lessons that can be learned from the past. Unless our young people are convinced of that, we will lose that heritage completely. This begins with a renewed emphasis on heritage learning resources - ethnological, architectural, archaeological, archival, artifactual and natural resources.
I am very proud of what Shara has accomplished. If the goal of education is to produce self- motivated, clear thinking problem solvers I believe students like Shara are an encouragement to all those around them. I would like to thank Bruce McCowan and his family for providing the encouragement and opportunity to participate in such a worthwhile venture. Through efforts of organizations such as the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society we can feel assured that efforts are being.made to preserve our heritage.