Canadian History Assignments

Snapshots in Time: Significant Events in Canadian History Set 1

The Snapshots in Time Significant Events in Canadian History series consists of three sets of cards focusing on 150 significant events in the history of what became known as Canada from its pre-history to present day. This first set of 50 cards can be used as a game, learning tool, learning resource or assessment strategy to help your students investigate well-known historical events that are commonly included in grades 4-12 curricula across Canada. Each card focuses on a significant historical event in Canadian history and includes a title, a description of the event and an iconic image that provides clues about the event and when it occurred.

This set of cards was partially funded by the University of Alberta’s Endowment Fund for the Future: Support for the Advancement of Scholarship program.

This resource is also available in French as Clichés d'histoire. (Funded by le Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada.)

Unit # 1

The  students will examine the major factors and events that led to the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867 and evaluate the challenges facing the advocates of union. They will also investigate regional interests and other factors that led to the growth of Canada, as other provinces and territories joined Confederation. They will extend their understanding of national issues by comparing negotiations among regional interests at the time of Confederation and comparing them to similar debates in Canada today.  (

Two excellent sources of additional information for this entire unit can be found at the following websites:
 1.    "The History of Canada Online"
2.    The Library and Archives Canada has set up a website entitled "Confederation for Kids" which was written for children between the ages of 9-13 who are learning about why Canada became a country:
3.  TVO has created an interactive webpage for kids to learn about famous Canadians and events called Time Trackers:

Day 1          WHY STUDY HISTORY?

As an introduction to Canadian history, and in an effort to dump the label that Canadian history is boring, we started the class with a discussion on why studying history is interesting.  We came up with a list of the following reasons:

·         To explain things,
·         To reflect on different cultures and eras of time,
·          To analyze human advancements,
·         To learn from mistakes and successes of past generations.

We followed this up with a short discussion on cultural differences that caused such tragedies as the Holocaust, the Tutsi versus Hutu conflict in the 1990’s and most recently 9/11, and analyzed what can be learned from these events.

We finished with an examination of historically significant events that upon being witnessed have a lasting impact on the observer.  We focussed on the social impact of hockey defining Canada within the international scene.  We looked at Paul Henderson’s game winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series versus the Soviet Union (my dad's generation), followed in my generation by Mario Lemieux’s game winning goal versus the Russians to win the Canada Cup in 1987 and finally my son's  generation in which Sydney Crosby scored the decisive goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver versus the U.S.A.  These three events not only allow Canadians to feel a sense of nationalistic pride over different decades, but also demonstrate how important history can be when “shaping a nation”.

Week of Sept.  
(A)    We will start class by examining early photography of Brockville and discuss the similarities and differences of these same locations today. Check out this excellent web page put together by Brockville historian Doug Grant: 
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(B)    The students will then be asked to spend time familiarizing themselves with and defining key vocabulary that will assist them throughout this unit.   Due Sept.
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(C)    As well, the students will complete a mapping project that will enable them to understand the differences in the layout of BNA compared to present day Canada.  
For the map, the students are to:
1. label each of the colonies of BNA and use dashes (---) to indicate approximate land boundaries
2. colour each of the colonies a separate colour
3. label each of the major oceans that surround BNA 
Due  Sept.
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Day 4-5   BRITISH NORTH AMERICA 1850-1860
Sept. -Sept.
For this entire first unit, you may find it useful to check out this source for additional information:

For today's lesson you may find this link helpful:

(A)    During the decade of the 1850's British North America was undergoing rapid changes.  The entire expanse that we now know as "Canada" was at this time a loosely controlled collection of independent colonies of the British Empire.  There was little communication between the colonies and little desire to interact or trade.  The following link provides a good basic summary of life during this time:

Today the students are asked to examine life during the 1850's in each of the main regions of BNA and create a graphic organizer that summarizes the main features of life at the time.
1.  The Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland), 
2.  The Canadas (Canada East and Canada West) the area we now know as Quebec and Ontario, and 
3.  The West the large, mostly empty expanse of western BNA which now consists of the prairie provinces and British Columbia.
The students are to use the followingcriteriato organize their information: 
a) Name of Region, b) Size of Population, c) Major Ethnic Groups Within Region, and d) Key Economic Developments/Features 
Due: Sept.
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The entire documentary below is excellent, however focus on the part from 25 minutes to 30 minutes where the cable is laid and finally reaches Newfoundland.  It shows how arduous the task was and how much celebration there was around the world that the feat was accomplished.  Unfortunately, this first transatlantic cable (1858) failed after the initial success, but it did prove that it was possible.  By 1866, the technology had improved to the point that the messages could be sent almost ten times faster than the initial cable of 1858.
Mystery Quests - Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History
is a great website that fosters critical thinking (making inferences and drawing conclusions) in students.  The site offers various well known cases throughout Canadian History in which the final judgements in the case still invoke some doubt.  I would like to invesigate the case entitled "Heaven and Hell on Earth - The Massacre of the Black Donnelly's" in southwestern Ontario in 1880.  The website offers two assignments on this topic that I feel fit perfectly into the analysis of the lifestyle of the "typical" Canadian immigrant family during the decades leading up to and post Confederation.  To view the two assignments click on the following links:
1. MysteryQuest 10 - Life in the Township
2. MysteryQuest 19 - Life in Rural Ontario During the Late 19th Century: Hardship or Prosperity

Day 5-8          THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and 
                    the American Civil War
Sept. -October

The following weblink provides a good general overview of the major incidences, outcomes  and personalities involved in both the Underground Railroad and the American Civil War.  It also provides fanatastic links to other websites for those who are interested in exploring more about these world altering historic topics.

(A)    In order for grade 8 students to understand the reasons that politicians had for initiating discussions about a union of the colonies of BNA, they must first have some background information about what was occuring in the USA in the mid 1800's.  Much of the talk of creating a union started with the commonly held belief (at the time) in Manifest Destiny (  Many Canadians felt that an American attack was imminent, and the Civil War did alot to enhance those fears.

(B)    Over the next couple of history classes the students will examine several clips centering on theUnderground Railroad and the American Civil War.  The topics will include: short documentaries about the lifes of slaves; Negroe Spiritual songs with hidden messages about how to escape slavery; and two animated hero classics that feature the stories of Harriet Tubman (the Black Moses) and Abraham Lincoln (the American President during the Civil War).  For an excellent interactive storyline of a journey on the  "Underground Railroad" from the National Geographic website follow this weblink:

(C)    The following are a sampling of what the students will watch.  You can find the remaining parts of the animations and many other clips on these topics at

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A fun interactive weblink about the Underground Railroad can be found at Time Trackers Games - TVO found here:

We completed this section by watching the animated hero classic on Harriet Tubman.  This includes the story of Harriet Tubman's (The Black Moses) escape to the "Promised Land" and consequent return trip to assist her family in escaping as well.  I have included   the full 1/2 hour video here:
The American Civil War (1861-1865) - A Brief Overview
Animated Hero Classic - Abraham Lincoln

      Watch the following humorous clip to learn how little the average Canadian citizen knows about Confederation and George Brown - who played an instrumental role in negotiating the terms that lead to the creation of the Dominion of Canada.

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To finish off the unit on Confederation, the students will complete 1 of 4 possible assignments about the concepts we have covered this unit.  An outline of the assignment is included in the list of files below.  I have also included the individual assignments and rubrics for each as well.  The video at the end shows an example of a song about Confederation that the students can use as a model if they decide to try this option.

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