A teacher from Hunting Hills High School is currently exploring France in an effort to learn more about Canada’s involvement in the World Wars.
Rafaela Marques Barnabe, along with 24 other Canadian educators, is participating in the Juno Beach Centre Summer Institute and Battlefield Tour for Teachers, presented by the Juno Beach Centre Association (JBCA).
The Association is a Canadian non-profit organization that operates an interactive museum facility in Normandy, France that educates people on the Canadian role in World Wars.
“I’ve wanted to do this tour for a long time but with timing and whatever it never worked out. I finally decided that this year was going to be the year. I find that when I’ve been to the places I teach about it becomes way more impactful in the classroom,” Barnabe said.
“When I can bring my stories and my pictures and tell the kids about what the day was like and how it felt to be in those places – the kids become much more interested than when they just hear about a battle or a site.
“When you can bring those stories and experiences to the classroom, the kids can ask questions and you can give them a good answer. You’ve been there and know what it feels like to be in these places. I find that as a social teacher it adds so much more to lessons and makes it more interesting.”
The 10-day tour includes visits to such historical sites as the Beaumont-Hamel Memorial, Vimy Ridge, Dieppe Beach and Canadian Cemetery, Juno Beach, Omaha Beach and the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian Cemetery.
The tours offers educators a chance to experience these historic regions in-depth and better their understanding of the histories they teach about.
Before she left for France, Barnabe said she was very much looking forward to the whole experience.
“I think it’s at Vimy Ridge where we get to go into some of the World War I trenches and I think that will be very interesting. I’m not sure if they’re re-created or the originals but it will be interesting,” she said.
“If you’re standing on a beach, you might be able to think there was a battle here. But when you’re standing in a bunker or trench as it was – that becomes so much more meaningful. I know we’re going to see other places that are preserved or left as they were, and that’s where I learn the most. I like to be standing and seeing it as it was.”
The teachers will visit a variety of locations through their trip and will discuss the experience with each other as they plan lessons for future use.
“We get half a day at the Juno Beach Centre to do some lesson planning and things with a historian. We’re going to really work on what we can take back to the classroom and use – project and lesson ideas and things like that. I think it’s a half-day or full day that we just work on that. That will be interesting and fun, too, so I’m looking forward to what I can bring back from that.”
Barnabe wanted to remind people that the Juno Beach Centre is not only for teachers – it can be accessed by anyone in the area, and she strongly encourages Canadians to visit if they find themselves in France.
“I think it’s important that they see what the Canadian contributions were during the wars. I think that people sometimes underestimate what Canada did in the wars and it is important that people know what we did,” she said.
“We want to pay our respects to the people who gave their lives so we can live in the society that we live in. Yes, this is a teacher tour but the centre encourages school groups and citizens and regular visitors to make their way up there.”