Think Like a Historian: Introduction to the Halifax Explosion

1. Brainstorm memorable experiences or events in your life and choose one to describe to a partner. Take turns describing events with your partner. Offer a vivid account using the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) and personal thoughts. While your partner tells you about their experience, listen for words that reveal their thoughts, values and beliefs about the event, and about the world more widely. Discuss with your partner. Compare what you thought was significant with what they thought was significant. 2. As a class, discuss how you can take what you’ve learned and apply it to primary source analysis. How can you tell how the person you are analyzing (in this case, your partner) felt or thought about the events that took place? For example, which words or phrases offered the most insight into their perspective? Even though you may not be able to identify with their experience, you may be able to better understand their perspective by paying attention to those details. Historical Perspectives Exploring historical perspectives involves working toward a better understanding of those who lived in the past — people who had different worldviews and experiences , and who lived in a different historical context. We cannot simply imagine or guess what someone from the past believed or valued; we must examine evidence to draw observations and inferences that will shape our understanding. The perspective of one person from the past can provide a wealth of evidence about an event, an experience, or a worldview, but we cannot generalize based on one perspective. We must consider multiple perspectives and develop a broad understanding of the different perspectives that existed in the past. Primary sources, including personal letters and sketches, are an excellent way to explore historical perspectives and better understand the lives and experiences of people in the past. Read more about the Historical Thinking Concepts at . “Plan showing devastated area of Halifax City, N.S.”, 1918 (courtesy Nova Scotia Archives/N.S. Board of Insurance Underwriters, V6/240 – 1917 Halifax: Location Bond Family, c . 1900 (private collection of Koralee King). WHAT CAN WE LEARN ABOUT THE EXPERIENCES OF PEOPLE DURING THE HALIFAX EXPLOSION THROUGH PRIMARY SOURCES? 3. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES The 5Ws After reading the Ethel Bond Lette r Transcript in the Ethel Bond Worksheets Package on the Education Portal , look for clues to answer the who, what, when , where, and why o f the account. 1. In pairs, use the 5Ws Chart in the Ethel Bond Worksheets Package to write your observations about the letter: • Who wrote the letter? • To whom was it written? • When and where was the letter written? • What is the letter about? • Why was the letter written? 2. What further questions do you have? 3. Discuss your findings as a class. 4. ETHEL BOND: LETTERS Through the following activities, students will work towards a better understanding of the experiences of people who survived the Halifax Explosion. To begin, watch and listen carefully to the Ethel Bond video. Afterwards, share your responses with the rest of the class (including connections, questions, etc.). As you work through the activities in this section, keep in mind the following guiding question: Guiding Question: What can we learn about Ethel Bond’s experiences during the Halifax Explosion from her letter? Teacher Tip: • Download the 3D Primary Source Pyramid f rom the Education Portal . Have students assemble a pyramid to help guide and prompt their analysis in the activities. • Download the Annotated Ethel Bond Letter in the Ethel Bond Worksheets Package for additional context and tips on how to guide analysis of the letter in your classroom. • A biography of Ethel Bond is available in the Ethel Bond Worksheets Package on the Education Portal . Exploring the context in which Ethel’s letter was written helps us better understand the content in the letter. Ethel Bond’s family lived in Richmond, a North Halifax working-class suburb that was devastated by the Explosion. Many of the people who lived there were skilled railroad and construction workers, although Ethel’s father, Alexander Bond, owned a sugar mill. Read more about the areas of Halifax affected by the Explosion in the “ Halifax Explosion ” article on The Canadian Encyclopedia . Make notes answering the following questions: • What can this tell you about which people and communities were most affected? • What questions do you still have? B) CONTEXT A)