Museum Classroom – 1. Historic Moments in Canada: Immigrating to Canada (J/I)

Lesson: Historic Moments in Canada: Immigrating to Canada
Topic: Exploring the lives of Canadian Immigrants
Grade: 6+

Activity: Researching and understanding Canadian immigrants

Theme: Human immigration contributes to the narratives of our community

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will understand the importance and significance of immigration
  • Students will understand terminology related to immigration including immigration, refugee, push and pull facts
  • Students will be able to differentiate between immigrant vs refugee
  • Students will expand their understanding of immigration through the facilitation of conducting interviews with a family member or friend
  • Students will self-evaluate their ability to conduct an interview

Curriculum Expectations

  • Social Studies
  • Language
  • Art

Materials Required

  • Pencil
  • Blank piece of paper
  • Electronic Device (computer, tablet, iPad)

Materials Provided

  • Blank World Map handout
  • The Stories that make up Canada Interview handout
  • Reflection and Self-Evaluation of the Interview handout

Pre-Lession: What is Immigration?

Begin by asking students “Are all Canadians from Canada?” “Where are Canadians from?” “Why would people move to Canada?”

Introduce the concept of immigration by discussing what the term means. Ask students if they can explain what is immigration?

            “the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country”

Ask students, “Why might someone immigrate to another country?” As a class, write down student answers on a Smart Board. For movement, allow students to write down their own answers on the board.

Note to teacher: students answer may consist of war, financial, family, natural disasters, job, etc. If not use question prompts to illicit these answers.

Next, ask students if they understand the concept of push and pull factors with regards to immigration. As a class and using the list, ask students to identify what reasons to immigrate are considered push factors and which ones are pull factors. Have a brief discussion on how these push and pull factors can effect a person’s life and/or family.

After having a brief discussion, ask students “What is a refugee?”

“a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

Ask students “How is an immigrant different than a refugee?” Allow students to formulate thoughts and answer the question.

(If previously discussed) Ask students to recall the Underground Railroad and what was it’s purpose.

Note to teacher: Students should be able to explain that the Underground Railroad was a series of routes used for escaped slaves to travel from the Southern United States into Norther parts of the United States and Canada.

Ask students, “Are escaped slaves from the Underground Railroad considered immigrants or refugees, why?”

Ask students, “What challenges do immigrants face when they arrive in Canada?”

Note to teacher: Students should be able to provide answers including language barriers, lack of family members close by, access to resources, etc.

St. Catharines Connection – Exploring Immigration

Freedom Seekers

Begin by asking students if they know who John Graves Simcoe is? Students may be familiar with the secondary school Governor Simcoe.

Explain to students that John Graves Simcoe, born, February 25th, 1752 was an army officer and colonial administrator and the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada from 1791 until 1796.

As a class or individually, have students read the following and encourage them to reflect on what they are listening to.

In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic businesses. The buying, selling and enslavement of Black people was heavily practiced by Europeans and colonists in New France in the early 1600’s. In 1793 in Upper Canada (now known as Ontario), John Graves Simcoe introduced ‘An Act to Prevent the Further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the term of Contracts for Servitude within this Province.’ This began the process of ending slavery in British North America. Slavery was abolished (formally put to an end) throughout the British Empire in 1833.

During this time, Canada was considered free land or ‘the Promised Land’ for any and all enslaved Black people who dared to escape bondage (the service of a slave).

In 1850, at the same time of the abolition of slavery in Canada, President George Washington introduced the first Fugitive Slave Act which made it legal for bounty hunters to hunt and capture escaping slaves and return them to their owners.

From the early days after the War of 1812 all the way up until the end of the Civil War in 1865, escaping Black slaves were aided by a network of secret abolitionists called the Underground Railroad. Because of our proximity to the American border, many, many escaping slaves settled in the City of St. Catharines, most waiting for the day they could return home to their families in the United States.

After reading the excerpt, ask students “What are some push and pull factors that escaped slaves face?”

Note to teacher: Based on prior knowledge and the excerpt students should be able to provide the following answers, distance from family, no job, access to resources, food, shelter, freedom, etc.

Building the Welland Canals

Ask students, “What is the Welland Canal?” Allow time for students to formulate their answers.

For students who may be unfamiliar explain that the Welland Canal is a ship canal in Ontario, Canada connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. It forms a key section of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes Waterway. The Welland Canal traverses the Niagara Peninsula from Port Weller in St. Catharines to Port Colborne and allows ships to ascend and descend the Niagara Escarpment.

Ask students, “Who do you think built the Welland Canal?”

Note to teacher: students may respond with construction workers, people who lived in Niagara, etc.

Explain to students that there were a total of Four Welland Canals built. The First Welland Canal was constructed and opened in 1829. 

Although construction labourers on the Welland Canal consisted of local men, in 1827 Irish immigrants flooded into Canada.

Ask students if they can explain what happened during this period of time to cause Irish people to immigrate to Canada?

After students have answered, explain that during this time, Ireland was faced with the Potato Famine (The Great Famine, Great Hunger, Great Starvation) – a period of mass starvation and disease where potato crops were infected. May Irish immigrants came to Canada to escape poverty and the Potato Famine. Many Irish workers were attracted to working on the construction of the Welland Canal. They became known as the “naviees” or transient workers because they were always looking for jobs. Many Irish labourers found jobs maintaining and operating the Welland Canal once it was completed.

After reading the excerpt, ask students “What are some push and pull factors that Irish immigrants faced?”

Next, ask students if they can identify what their cultural heritage is? Explain to students that they are going to identify the countries of which their ancestors have come from on a blank world map.

  1. Download and print the Blank World Map handout. If you cannot print, we recommend downloading the Adobe or Word version of the handout.

Allow students 2-3 minutes to identify what country(ies) their ancestors have come from that make up their cultural heritage. Have students share their answers with the class. Ask students to identify any similarities or differences that they may have with their classmates regarding their cultural heritage.

The Interview

For this activity, explain to students that they are going to interview a family member or friend who was not born in, and immigrated to Canada.

Note to teacher: Explain to students it is important to ask first and let the interviewee read the questions before deciding to participate in the interview. Explain to students that a good interviewer is relaxed, respectful of the interviewee and asks questions slowly and gives the interviewee time to answer before moving on to the next question.

  1. Download and print The Stories that make up Canada: Interview handout. If you cannot print, we recommend downloading the Adobe or Word version of the handout.
  2. Download and print the Reflection and Self-Evaluation of the Interview handout. If you cannot print, we recommend downloading the Adobe or Word version of the handout.

Explain to students that they are to first interview a family member or friend who is a Canadian immigrant using the questions on the handout. Inform students that they are to thank their interviewee for providing their time for the interview before and after. Additionally, remind students to ask their interviewee if they may share their answers for class discussion. After they have completed the interview, students will complete the Reflection and Self-Evaluation of the Interview handout.

Have students share their interview findings with their classmates along with their self evaluation. This will allow students to develop a deeper understanding by hearing their classmates’ answers and to explore other people’s narratives about immigration. Ask students to identify any similarities and differences between their classmate’s interviews and self-evaluations.

Wrap Up
After discussing answers from their interview handouts as a class, ask students, “Is immigration easy?” Students should be encouraged to expand on their answers based on the lesson and what they learned during their interview.

Ask students, “What can we learn from the experience of immigrants to Canada?” Allow 2-3 minutes for discussion.

Lastly, ask student, “If an immigrant was new to your school or community, what are some ways you can assist them to make their transition to their new life more positive?”

Note to teacher: Based on the lesson students should provide answers such as teach them English language, help them locate resources, offer friendship, etc.

Remind students that many immigrants come to Canada this day who have helped contribute and shape our community into what it is today.

Differentiated Instruction
Students who have cognitive, learning, or mobility issues may verbally describe their answers to their handouts or use an assisted learning device (i.e. computer, iPad, tablet, etc.) to complete the handouts.

Honouring Someone’s Story

Have students choose one of the three pieces of the interview that they wrote down in their self-evaluation after the interview.

Have students decide on a way to represent that piece of the interview i.e. poem, story, comic strip, painting, dance, song, etc.

Share with the class.

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