Teaching and Learning Resources
Cape Breton Island is known for its rich heritage and diverse cultures. Dating back to the early days of settlement in the 17th century, European settlers – predominantly French and British at that time – arrived in Cape Breton in search of new opportunities. For the next three centuries, immigration patterns increased steadily, building a community of cultures that to this day still prides itself on diversity and understanding of others.
In the late 1800’s and continuing into the first part of the twentieth century, people of Eastern and Central European descent ventured across the Atlantic to settle in Cape Breton, where work in the coal and steel industries was flourishing. Opportunities were plentiful, and despite adverse living and working conditions, they began to carve out a new life, usually never returning to their native lands. Most often, they settled in small communities, surrounded by others of their own culture, and preserved traditions and a way of life that they had experienced in their homeland.
In industrial Cape Breton, they settled in Whitney Pier, a community of Sydney, as well as the towns and villages of North Sydney, Sydney Mines, New Waterford, Dominion, Glace Bay and Donkin. They settled and survived by building on their rich cultural traditions of music, dance and faith to create community spirit and endure hardships that far surpassed what they had left in their homelands. Many of these communities of culture still survive today although the industries have all disappeared. Each culture lives through the descendants of the early immigrants, and the sense of pride remains as strong as it was more than one hundred years ago.
This web portal – diversitycapebreton.ca – tells the stories of four of these cultural groups: Croatian, Jewish, Polish and Ukrainian. Through digital archives, their stories, songs, and other artifacts are preserved for us to learn about the past and to celebrate our rich diversity. This Learning and Teaching Resource is intended for teachers and students to explore and understand the rich heritage of this part of Atlantic Canada. It is rooted in the current Nova Scotia curricula as well as Foundation Documents of CAMET (Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training).
For students, diversitycapebreton.ca provides support for learning in many content areas, including Social Studies, Language Arts, and Arts Education. This resource describes three xx-hour modules containing suggestions for learning and teaching at various levels:
- Grade 3 – 5: Immigrating to Cape Breton Island
- Grade 6 – 8: Life in a New Land
- Grade 9 – 12: Immigration Past, Present and Future
In each module, curriculum outcomes are identified, additional resources are referenced, and suggestions for assessment are presented. Using an inquiry-based learning approach, students will discover and explore the objects presented for each cultural group, and will make direct application to topics covered in other disciplines.
Foundation for the Atlantic Canada Social Studies Curriculum (1999) states:
...social studies, more than any other curriculum area, is vital to developing citizenship...The social studies curriculum promotes students’ growth as individuals and as citizens of Canada and of an increasingly interdependent world. It provides opportunities for students to explore multiple approaches that may be used to analyse and interpret their own world and the world of others... The knowledge, skills, and attitudes developed through the social studies curriculum empower students to be informed, responsible citizens of Canada and the world and, through participation in the democratic process, improve society. (p. 1)
While the modules provide a multidisciplinary approach through which students examine issues that affect their lives, it is primarily through social studies and the arts that they see the life and times of cultural groups who immigrated to Cape Breton in the early 1900s.
The modules have been developed according to specific grade levels: elementary, middle and high school. However, it is suggested that teachers read through all three to get a sense of the scope of what is possible in the classroom. This may encourage some to take a module from a different grade level and make adaptations to suit the age of the students. In other words, the module becomes a starting point for further inquiry that leads to deeper meaning on a particular topic. Expectations and desired outcomes will vary in this case, and additional classroom resources to support the learning may be different depending on the grade level.
Each module is intended to be approximately 10 hours in length, but this does not limit the teacher in extending the learning beyond the suggested times. Teachers should feel free to branch out into other areas of curriculum, and thus identify Essential Learning Outcomes or Specific Curriculum Outcomes according to the discipline that is integrated.
Above all, it is important that students experience the joy that comes with working through an integrated unit, making connections to other disciplines, taking ownership for their own work, and seeing life through personal and authentic learning simulations.
For each of the three modules that follow, students will discover and learn about the rich cultural traditions of the Central and Eastern European immigrants who settled in Whitney Pier. Because this is a living repository for archival materials, suggestions for learning, teaching and assessment to support the Croatian, Jewish, Polish, and Ukrainian cultures will be added as they are developed over time. In the meantime, many of the activities suggested can be applied to the other cultural groups with ease and minimal adjustment.