It was an impactful history lesson that over 100 students from four Bluewater District School Board secondary schools will never forget. To mark the 100 th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, participating students had the once-in- lifetime experience of attending a high profile commemorative event at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France on Sunday, April 9, 2017.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in northern France from April 9 to 12, 1917. While 3,600 Canadians lost their lives in the battle, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial commemorates all Canadians who served in the First World War. The names of 11,285 Canadians who died in France are engraved on its walls.
It was a surreal learning opportunity for Kincardine District Secondary School students who had prepared for the anniversary trip by researching local war heroes who participated in World War One. The excursion was especially personal for one student whose relatives fought in the war.
By participating, she became the first in her family to visit the site of one of those relatives buried in the Canadian cemetery closest to the Vimy memorial. In a very touching and meaningful tribute, the student joined her school mates to conduct a small ceremony at the grave site, which included the laying of a wreath and a fellow student playing bagpipes. Later that evening on CBC's "The National", she had a chance to briefly speak about her personal experience.
The trip was equally exciting for students from Grey Highlands Secondary School in Flesherton, who began their travels with a stop in London, England at the Imperial War Museum. The students then proceeded to Vimy via Dieppe, where they visited the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 before joining the Canadian contingent at the April 9 commemorative event. The trip itinerary also included visits to the Flanders Fields Museum and the Menin Gate on the way to Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, and a chocolate factory. Through the generous support of a recent 2,000-dollar cheque donation by the Royal Canadian Legion, Grey Highlands Secondary School was able to offer these amazing learning experiences to students.
The donation also included a memorial cross to be presented at Vimy Ridge on the Legion's behalf.
Some of the trip highlights for students from Peninsula Shores District School in Wiarton includ the St. Julien Memorial just outside of Ieper (also known as Ypres) in Belgium, the Eiffel Tower, as well as the Vimy monument. Students were excited to catch a firsthand glimpse of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the British royals at the commemorative event, where they were also made a brief TV appearance during the media coverage.
A large group of students attending Vimy's 100 th from Owen Sound District Secondary School also expanded their learning and appreciation of this pivotal moment in Canadian history through tours of various sites. Their experiences visiting the St. Julien Memorial enabled a deeper understanding of this powerful Canadian war memorial, which features what has come to be known as the Brooding Soldier sculpture.
Field trip opportunities, such as this truly special Vimy Ridge milestone, serve as a clear demonstration of Bluewater District School Board's commitment to provide authentic and relevant experiences that enable students to connect their learning to the real world. Vimy's 100 th anniversary is a perfect example of an experiential, enriching and engaging learning initiative that is bound to leave a
lasting impression with all students who participated.