Monday, June 13, 2016

6 Stellar Students + 2 Days = Making Memories at Provincials

Raheem Bieniek
Vivien Li
Ishita Patel
Rachel Tiku
Elijah Valdez
Jennifer Zhu

The TDSB team at Provincials in U of T

Thanks to their media release forms, I can share their names and photos here. On the same weekend that we heard about the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, in my tiny corner of the world, I can share some positive news. At times where we despair that people can live in harmony despite being different, I can reflect on this past weekend, where six unique and talented students from six diverse schools bonded during a two-day trip and how honored I was to play a small part in their adventures.

The Ontario Heritage Fairs Association describes the Provincial Fair as such:

The purpose of the Ontario Provincial Heritage Fair is to bring together students from grades 4 to 10
(representing the Regional fairs held in Ontario) for a non-competitive, interactive history camp that includes
a public showcase to promote awareness of Ontario and Canadian history and heritage. 
In that showcase students share the excellent research projects that they have brought with them.
Chosen students complete a research project using primary and secondary sources for sharing with their
classmates and peers a their school and then at a Regional Fair.  Each Regional Fair chooses students and
projects to attend the Provincial Fair.  A base number of places is allotted to each site and extra spaces are
allocated specifically for the inclusion of First Nations, French First Language and non-traditional students.

I was asked to supervise the Toronto East and West delegation. I'm so glad that I did. These students were absolutely fabulous! I had a chance to see them in action during the first section of our packed itinerary, which was the Provincial Heritage Fair Showcase. This isn't a competition, but that did not stop these students from enthusiastically sharing information about their projects that indicated how passionate and well-versed they were about their topics. I tweeted several photos of them posed formally next to their projects but I want to share these action shots of them deep in conversation with strangers about history.

Opening ceremonies of the OHFA Provincials 2016

Raheem shows the radio he built with his dad to visitors

Ishita teaches a guest some basic ASL

Vivien explains her research on Sir John A Macdonald

Jennifer talked about her alternative history project asking "what if treaties were honored?"

These students knew their history, so thoroughly that they often left guides at Fort York, the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and on the "Ghosts of the University of Toronto" walking tour speechless with their great memories and insightful questions.

I knew that these students had academic "know-how" and clout, but I was charmed by how outgoing, personable and friendly they were as well. We had a bit of downtime after dinner on Saturday June 11, and so we walked near the University of Toronto Athletic Centre. The students asked some players there if they could borrow their ball, and with some help to hold up the damaged net, they played a little 5-on-1.

B-ball in action

The entire 2016 Provincial delegation

I truly can't say enough wonderful things about these six students, who quickly formed ties with me and among themselves. Our joyous team was often the last ones into establishments because we were busy snapping group photos together. They had a good sense of humor (even though there were some pretty dreadful and cringe-worthy lines shared). They were considerate and generous with their time. Below is a photo of our group sitting together writing thank you cards, a task required by OHFA. The students I had the privilege of supervising actually asked for more cards, so they could thank more than just one organization or individual.

Writing in the sun at Fort York

I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because the parents and families I interacted with were just as delightful as the students. Raheem's grandmother went searching for Toronto pins so that the group could reciprocate when given city pins from other municipalities. Ishita's parents drove two team members all the way home so they wouldn't have to take public transit with luggage and projects. 2/3 of the crew had parents and relatives attend the showcase. Their teachers raved about these students of theirs, were obviously proud of their accomplishments and extremely helpful as we organized this trip. Thank you to the following teachers and schools for tolerating all my emails and lunch visits:

Mabel Ifejika from Churchill Heights P.S.
Kris Karm from Dixon Grove M.S.
Grace Lim from Donview M.S.
Ira Metani fromBroadacres P.S.
Peter Tsatsos from Macklin P.S.
Farah Wadia from Agnes Macphail P.S.

The TDSB delegation at the Ontario Legislative Assembly
There are plenty of things I could mention, but no one else will understand who Billy is, or the true pros and cons of being a legislative page. I thanked this group with "musket balls" from Fort York, but I wanted to thank them with words. You students are what makes it worth sacrificing a weekend with my family to be with you. 

I also want to thank the official sponsors of the Fair; Canada's History, Canadian Heritage, Great West, London, Canada Life, Grandmother's Bake Shop, The Ontario History, Humanities and Social Science Consultants' Association, Ontario Power Generation, OHS, OLA, OGS, OWHN, MSHO, AO, and OHRC (yes, a lot of acronyms!) Students came from all over Ontario to attend, and many could not have afforded to come without the financial help from these organizations. There were students from the District School Board of Niagara, Durham, Grand Erie, Grey Roots, Kenjgewin, Kingston, Niagara Catholic, North Bay, Ottawa, Simcoe County, Sudbury, Thames Valley and Waterloo. I hope the other chaperones can say that they had as enjoyable a time as I had. 

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