Critical Thinking Canadian History

Curriculum Connections for Ontario

A Teachers’ Guide is available for each of the twelve Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, and includes background materials, activity sheets and detailed lesson plans for one or more grade-specific units for elementary or secondary students. Some suggestions are relevant for college and university classes. Just fill in our online registration form and download the guides in PDF format.

There are short, focused, age-specific, single-lesson MysteryQuests lesson plans relating to one or more of the Mysteries.

You can also download classroom posters.

1. Where is Vinland?

“Where is Vinland?” can be used effectively in the following courses. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are ones where the teacher may need to do a little improvising to ensure that the lessons – designed specifically here for intermediate and junior secondary students – are at the appropriate level.

  • Grade 6- First Nation Peoples and European Explorers (Heritage and Citizenship)
  • Grade 7 – Geography
  • Grade 9- Geography (Methods and Communication strands)*
  • Grade 11 – Geography: The Americas: Geographic Patterns and Issues*
  • Grade 11- World History to the 16th Century
  • Grade 12- Adventures in World History
  • MysteryQuest 28 – Plotting the Course A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11–14
    • Grade 6- First Nation Peoples and European Explorers
    • Grade 7- Geography
    • Grade 8- Geography
    • Grade 9- Geography
    • Grade 11- The Americas Geography
  • MysteryQuest 29 – Is Cape Cod the Real Vinland? A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14–16
    • Grade 6- First Nation Peoples and European Explorers
    • Grade 11- World History to the 16th Century
    • Grade 12- Adventures in World History
    • Grade 12- History, Identity, Culture *
  • MysteryQuest 30 – Norse Profiling A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11–14
    • Grade 6- First Nation Peoples and European Explorers
    • Grade 11- World History to the 16th Century
    • Grade 12- Adventures in World History

2. Torture & the Truth: Angélique & the Burning of Montreal

A unit of study designed to foster critical thinking in the intermediate and junior secondary level Canadian history curriculum.

“Torture and the Truth: Angélique and the Burning of Montréal” can be used effectively in the following courses. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are ones where the teacher may need to do a little improvising to ensure that the lessons – designed specifically here for intermediate and junior secondary students – are at the appropriate level.

  • Grade 7- New France
  • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
  • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, Culture
  • MysteryQuest 2 – Did Angelique Start the Fire? Evaluating the Evidence
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11–14
    • Grade 7- New France
    • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, Culture
  • MysteryQuest 6 – Slavery in New France
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11–14
    • Grade 7- New France
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, Culture
  • MysteryQuest 13 – The Status of Women in New France
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-18
    • Grade 7- New France
    • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, Culture
  • MysteryQuest 16 – Opposition to Slavery in New France
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-18
    • Grade 7- New France
    • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, Culture
  • MysteryQuest 18 – Working Women in New France
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11–14
    • Grade 7- New France
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, Culture

3. Jerome: The Mystery Man of Baie Sainte-Marie

A unit of study designed to foster critical thinking in the senior secondary level Canadian history curriculum.

Jérôme could be used effectively in the following courses:

  • Grade 8- Development of Western Canada and Canada: A Changing Society
  • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
  • Grade 11 – Canadian Politics and Citizenship
  • Grade 12 – Canada: History, Identity and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 25 – Explaining the Mystery
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14–16
    • Grade 8- Development of Western Canada and Canada: A Changing Society
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 26 – Worthy of Attention?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14–16
    • Grade 8- Development of Western Canada and Canada: A Changing Society
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 27 – Was Jerome Mistreated?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 16–18
    • Grade 8- Development of Western Canada and Canada: A Changing Society
    • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Grade 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture

4. Who Killed William Robinson? Race, Justice & Settling the Land

Unit 1:William Robinson and the Law Teaching Unit for Law, Senior Secondary Courses

A unit to further the development of critical thinking in the senior secondary law and history curricula using the website “Who Killed William Robinson? This could be used in the following courses:

  • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
  • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture

Unit 2: Murder in Our Own Backyard: Who Killed William Robinson? A Three-week integrated Language Arts unit for Intermediate Students

If students have enjoyed the experience it can easily be reproduced using geography, mathematics, history, science, and other areas of fine arts and language arts as appropriate with prescribed learning outcomes.

Individual Lesson Plans: Who Killed William Robinson?

Teaching Unit for Intermediate and Junior Secondary History and Social Studies Courses “Who Killed William Robinson?” could be used effectively in the following courses. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are ones where the teacher may need to do a little improvising to ensure that the lessons – designed specifically here for intermediate and junior secondary students – are at the appropriate level.

  • Grade 8 – The Development of Western Canada
  • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures*
  • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
  • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
  • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 3 – The Trial of Tshuanahusset: Fair or Foul?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14–16
    • Grade 8- The Development of Western Canada
    • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
    • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
    • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 9 – Underlying Factors in the Operation of Colonial Justice
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-16
    • Grade 8- The Development of Western Canada
    • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
    • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 14 – Is Tshuanahusset Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-16
    • Grade 8- The Development of Western Canada
    • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
    • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
    • Grade 11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture

5. We Do Not Know His Name: Klatsassin & the Chilcotin War

Unit 1 is aimed at Intermediate (grades 7 and 8) or junior secondary (grades 8, 9 and 10) students, while Unit 2 is directed towards students in senior secondary classes, or for first or second year undergraduates.

Unit 1: Teaching Unit for Intermediate and Junior Secondary Students

“Contact and Conflict: The Tsilhqot’in People and the Colony of British Columbia” could be used effectively in the following courses:

  • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
  • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
  • Grade 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
  • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture

Unit 2: Teaching Unit for Senior Secondary or University Students

This Unit, “Murder, Terrorism or War? The 1864 Conflict between the Tsilhqot’in people and the colony of British Columbia” could be used effectively in the following course:

  • Canada: History, Identity and Culture – Grade 12
  • MysteryQuest 4 – Media Bias: The Chilcotin War
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-16
    • **This mystery deals with media literacy- could be tied to language arts media literacy expectations in most grades 8-12.**
    • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
    • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
    • Grade 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 7 – War, Massacre, or Terrorism?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 16–18
    • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
    • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
    • Grade 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 17 – Protecting the Nation?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14–18
    • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
    • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
    • Grade 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
    • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture

Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are ones where the teacher may need to do a little improvising to ensure that the lessons – designed specifically here for intermediate and junior secondary students – are at the appropriate level.

  • Native Studies 9 – Expressing Native Cultures
  • Native Studies 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
  • Grade 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
  • Grade 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture*

6. Heaven & Hell on Earth: The Massacre of the “Black” Donnellys

A unit of study designed to foster critical thinking in the intermediate and junior secondary level Canadian history curriculum.

“What Killed the ‘Black’ Donnellys?” can be used effectively in the following courses.

  • Grade 8: Confederation
  • Grade 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
  • Gr.12- Canada: History, Identity and Culture

7. Who Discovered Klondike Gold?

A Unit for Intermediate and Junior Secondary Students.

A Unit for Intermediate and Junior Secondary Students.

“Who Discovered Klondike Gold?” could be used effectively in the following courses. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are ones where the teacher may need to do a little improvising to ensure that the lessons – designed specifically here for intermediate and junior secondary students – are at the appropriate level.

  • Grade 8 – Canada: A Changing Society
  • Grade 9 – Geography of Canada (Academic)
  • Gr. 9 – Expressing Native Cultures*
  • Gr. 10 – Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
  • Gr. 12 -Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • Gr. 12- World Geography
  • MysteryQuest 22 – Who Should Receive the Credit?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 16–18
    • Gr.8- Canada: A Changing Society
    • Gr. 9- Geography
    • Gr. 10- Aboriginal Peoples in Canada **
    • Gr. 12 -Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 23 – Should I Join the Rush?
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11-14
    • Gr.8- Canada: A Changing Society
    • Gr. 9- Geography
    • Gr. 12 -Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
    • Gr. 12- World Geography
  • MysteryQuest 24 – Impact of the Gold Rush
    A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-16
    • Gr.8- Canada: A Changing Society
    • Gr. 9- Geography
    • Gr. 9 – Expressing Native Cultures*
    • Gr. 10- Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
    • Gr. 12 -Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
    • Gr. 12- World Geography

8. The Redpath Mansion Mystery

A unit of study designed to foster critical thinking in the intermediate level Canadian history curriculum.

“The Redpath Mansion Mystery” could be used effectively in the following courses:

  • Grade 8: A Changing Society
  • Grade 12: Canada: History, Identity and Culture
  • Grade 11 – Understanding Canadian Law, University/College prep
  • Grade 12 – Canadian and International Law, University Prep

9. Death on a Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy

A unit of study designed to foster critical thinking in the senior secondary level Canadian history curriculum.

This mystery could be used effectively in the following courses:

  • Grade 10: Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
  • Grade 11 – Understanding Canadian Law, University/College prep
  • Grade 12 – Canada: History, Identity and Culture
  • Grade 12 – Canadian and International Law, University Prep

10. Aurore! The Mystery of the Martyred Child

Provides a Teaching Unit for Intermediate and Secondary Students.

We have identified the following courses as ones in which this Unsolved Mystery about Aurore Gagnon could most easily fit into your provincial curriculum.

  • History 10-- Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
  • Civics 10
  • Gr. 11 – Understanding Canadian Law
  • Gr. 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture

11. Explosion on the Kettle Valley Line: The Death of Peter Verigin

“Explosion on the Kettle Valley Line: The Death of Peter Verigin” can be used effectively in the following courses. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are ones where the teacher may need to do a little improvising to ensure that the lessons – designed specifically here for intermediate and junior secondary students – are at the appropriate level.

  • History 10-- Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
  • Gr. 10 - Civics
  • Gr. 11 – Canadian Politics and Citizenship,
  • Gr.11- Understanding Canadian Law
  • Gr. 12 – Canada: History, Identity and Culture,
  • Gr.12- Canadian and International Law
  • MysteryQuest 8- Doukhobors Make Good Canadians
    • History 10-- Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
    • Gr. 10 Civics
    • Gr. 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship
    • Gr. 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 11- Reconstructing the Scene of the Crime
    • History 10-- Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
    • Gr. 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 12- Investigating Suspects in the Death of Peter Verigin
    • History 10-- Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
    • Gr.11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Gr. 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 15- Respecting the Doukhobors’ Rights in British Columbia
    • History 10-- Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
    • Gr.11- Understanding Canadian Law
    • Gr.12- Canadian and International Law
    • Gr. 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
  • MysteryQuest 21- Representing the Doukhobors in the Media
    • History 10-- Canadian History Since World War I, Grade 10, Academic and Applied
    • Gr. 12- Canada: History, Identity, and Culture
    • Gr. 11- Canadian Politics and Citizenship**
    • Media Literacy therefore ties to Language Arts expectations

12. Death of a Diplomat: Herbert Norman & the Cold War

A unit of study designed to foster critical thinking in the intermediate and senior secondary level Canadian history curriculum: “To what degree was Herbert Norman’s death the result of Canada’s own version of a Cold War ‘witch hunt’”?

The Herbert Norman mystery could be used effectively in the following courses:

  • Grade 10: Canadian History Since World War I Academic and Applied
  • Grade 12: Canada: History, Identity and Culture
  • Canada and World Politics, Grade 12 University Prep

Links

By Lindsay Gibson

What has changed and what has remained the same about historical thinking in secondary schools since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister in 2006 (also happens to be the same year the Historical Thinking Project began)?

It is difficult to make generalizations about historical thinking in secondary school classrooms across Canada because there are differences in curricula, teachers, and students in each province and territory. Furthermore, as a secondary school social studies teacher in B.C. for the past twelve years I have limited experience in secondary school classrooms outside of B.C. beyond attending and presenting at national, regional and provincial social studies and history conferences, meetings, and workshops. In order to make any substantive claims about historical thinking in secondary schools it would be necessary to conduct a contemporary version of the pan-Canadian research study led by Hodgetts (1968), who investigated the teaching of Canadian history, social studies, and civics in schools across Canada.[1] Regardless of these difficulties, in this essay I highlight the achievements that have been made in embedding historical thinking in secondary school classrooms, and discuss the obstacles to increasing the uptake of historical thinking in secondary classrooms across Canada.

The Historical Thinking Project (hereafter HTP) aimed to reform history education by focusing on four interrelated areas: rewriting of provincial curricula, classroom materials, professional development, and valid and efficient assessment strategies. As highlighted by Peter Seixas in a recent article for the Canadian Historical Association, the HTP experienced several successes from 2006-2014.

Two of Canada’s largest provinces, B.C. and Ontario recently adopted historical thinking concepts as important parts of their curricula. Ontario recently implemented a new K-12 curriculum that embedded historical thinking concepts in the history program, and British Columbia released a draft K-9 social studies curriculum that included the six historical thinking concepts as cross-curricular competencies. Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, and Nova Scotia also embedded the six historical thinking concepts in courses and curricula.

Since 2007 all major Canadian educational presses have published history and social studies textbooks that explicitly embedded the historical thinking concepts, some more successfully and substantively than others. Other publishers have also created a variety of print and online resources, lessons, teaching materials, and videos designed to help teachers embed historical thinking in their teaching practice. There are also a variety of books written in both English and French intended to help teachers understand and teach the six concepts.

One of the keys to any educational reform is professional development, and the HTP has presented hundreds of teacher workshops across the country since 2006. Beginning in 2010 the HTP offered annual summer institutes in different cities across Canada designed to prepare teachers, professors, and museum educators to teach others about historical thinking.   Beginning in 2008 the HTP also began to host an annual general meeting of key people from provincial and territorial ministries of education, presidents of provincial social studies teachers’ associations, textbook publishers, museum educators, teachers, and history educators, all with the purpose of building a national network of individuals committed to promoting “critical historical thinking for the 21st century.”

Although the HTP experienced many successes in reforming history education in secondary schools, many secondary school teachers across Canada are unaware of historical thinking and the six historical thinking concepts and have little idea about how to apply them to their teaching practice. Despite the inclusion of historical thinking in curriculum documents across Canada, there is still a large gap between what is written in the curriculum documents and how teachers teach history, and there can be little doubt there is still too much didactic teaching and student memorization of historical content. To improve teachers’ understanding of historical thinking, it is important that history faculties, teacher education programs, provincial social studies teachers’ associations, and ministries of education offer professional development opportunities and financial support for teachers to apply historical thinking to their practice.

Despite increased focus on assessing historical thinking at the 2012 HTP national meeting and the upcoming book on assessing historical thinking in 2015, the development of valid and efficient assessments of historical thinking still remains a major impediment to the teaching of historical thinking in secondary schools. Assessing students’ understanding and recall of historical content is relatively straightforward, but assessing the progression of students’ historical thinking is much more challenging. No provincial and territorial ministry of education have successfully built efficient and reliable assessments of historical thinking. If students’ knowledge and recall of historical content continues to be assessed on mandated exams and standardized assessments, it is likely that teachers will continue to focus their instruction on helping students acquire and memorize content.

Although much has been accomplished in terms of embedding historical thinking in secondary history teaching, there are several significant obstacles to overcome if historical thinking is going to become common practice in Canadian secondary history classrooms. Although the end of the HTP is a major setback for the uptake of historical thinking in secondary schools across Canada, the best hope for the continued focus on historical thinking is the national network of individuals committed to promoting historical thinking in our nation’s schools. As Peter Seixas stated in his written announcement of the closure, “Le projet de la pensée historique est mort, vive la pensée historique!”

Lindsay Gibson is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia where he is currently completing his dissertation research on historical thinking. He also works as a teacher in School District #23 (Kelowna, British Columbia) were he has taught secondary school history and social studies for twelve years and currently is a member of the Instructional Leadership Team. Lindsay has also worked as writer and editor for a variety of The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2) history education projects.

This week ActiveHistory.ca is running a series of 11 essays marking the end of the Historical Thinking Project. Click here to see a list of all the papers published during this theme week.

References

Hodgetts, A. B. What Culture? What Heritage?A Study of Civic Education in Canada. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1968.

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