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This article was published 16/3/2017 (1241 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of students from East Kildonan aren’t just learning about history in class. They’re taking part in it.
Twenty-one students from Miles Macdonell and 19 from Kildonan East Collegiate, along with three staff members from each school, will be travelling to Europe to take part in the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9.
"It’s once in a lifetime, taking part in these ceremonies," said Kara Wickstrom-Street, a social studies teacher organizing the group out of Miles Mac. "It teaches them what it means to be Canadian and shows them the magnitude of these events. It actually brings history to life."
The group is one of many travelling to pay homage to those who fell at Vimy Ridge 100 years ago. The trip, which will give the students an opportunity to visit a number of other historic sites en route, is organized by EF Educational Tours.
"It helps put things in perspective," said Dave Robinson, National History Program Advisor for EF Educational Tour, who are bringing a total of 9,000 students from across Canada to take part in the Vimy 100 ceremonies. "Kids today are seeing a Hollywoodization of everything, they know there’s more to it. They want to inquire, they want to experience."
For nine days, the students from East Kildonan will touch down first in Amsterdam, where they will visit the Anne Frank House. From there, they will spend three days in and around Vimy, including a visit to Ypres and the Tyne Cot Cemetery, where students will visit the graves of soldiers from Manitoba whose stories they have researched in preparation for their trip.
"That’s always something," said John Thompson, the teacher organizing the Kildonan East Collegiate contingent. "When they get there, it can be emotional for all of us. It moves them, for sure."
From the Vimy region, the group will move to Normandy and Juno Beach before spending the last few days in Paris.
Along with their research projects, the students spent a day experiencing first-hand what Canada’s modern military is all about. On March 14, the group visited the Fort Garry Horse 38 Regiment at the McGregor Armoury (551 Machray Ave.) and taking part in drills, exercises, and a tour of the facility.
"Today has been pretty intense," said Gabriella Yakemow, a Grade 12 Miles Mac student taking a quick break to speak to The Herald before learning how to safely handle a C7A2 assault rifle. "I was just expecting a day of learning some things, not actually being this involved. It was like we were actually joining the military. It’s a real-life experience, for sure."
"It’s been pretty fun," said Kisis Angeconeb, another Grade 12 Miles Mac student. "I haven’t had guys yelling at me to do pushups and stuff. I have not had any military or cadets experience, so this is a first for me."
Robinson added that not every school involved in the Vimy 100 trip has the opportunity to connect as directly with the military like the Miles Mac and Kildonan East group.
"We encourage as many schools to do whatever they can," he said. "A lot of schools don’t necessarily have access to a local regimen or armoury."
Many schools, Robinson said, will connect with a local Legion instead.
"It helps put things in perspective," he said. "It shows how even in peace our military is relevant. It shows how closely intertwined it is with our past, present, and future. The kids who come back from these trips take a leading role in the Remembrance (Day) ceremonies in their school."
Both Yakemow and Angeconeb are excited about the upcoming trip.
"History is one of my favourite subjects," Yakemow said. "We didn’t get a French history course this year, so I figured this is a pretty great alternative."
"It’s going overseas, and you get to learn about history, which you don’t get to do on most trips," Angeconeb added. "Visiting the ridge will be powerful."
Community journalist — The Herald
Sheldon Birnie is the community journalist for The Herald Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112
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