SUMMERSIDE – Brock Rochford and Anna Clark will never know what it was like to live through the Halifax explosion.
But with the 100th anniversary of the explosion on Wednesday, the Summerside Intermediate School Students will have an opportunity to learn about the life-changing event inside and outside the classroom.
“When we walked into school today, it was made up like Halifax in 1917. Then we were given an identification card of a real person who lived in Halifax and areas close by who may have been impacted by the explosion,” explained Rochford.
His identification is John Burnett, a 15-year-old boy, while Clark is Lillian Davey, a 13-year-old girl.
“Of all of the historic events the Halifax Explosion is probably the one I am most interested in,” said Clark.
“It really piqued my interest. But instead of just learning about it in the classroom, we get to have a little bit of the experience.”
Along with new names, Rochford and Clark have been tasked with dressing up in period clothing.
“We’ve learned a lot in class about the explosion. Like what lead up to it, what caused it, what happened afterward.
“But I also really want to learn about how the people lived back then and coped with the aftermath. I want to know how they got through it and helped one another.
“It’s sad to think if John Burnett died. He would have had a mom and dad, probably siblings. It wouldn’t just be sad that he died, but the grief of the family is terrible.”
Clark added, “It was a huge event. It changed people’s lives. I have a little sister who is 13 I couldn’t imagine her being here today and then Friday we’re all gone.”
Kelly Boyd, the teacher-librarian at SIS, organized the project.
“It stemmed from a event we ran with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. So it runs similarly. This time, students and teachers are given an identity of a real person at the time of the explosion. Some of the students are in costume along with all of the teachers. As the week unfolds, so will the events of the explosion.”
Boyd researched the names of those who died along with those who survived in order to make the experience authentic.
Monday marked the beginning of the event, Wednesday at 9:04 a.m. will mark the explosion itself and Friday will be the day students and teachers learn if their counterparts lived or died. In the classroom, teachers have found ways to incorporate the explosion into the set curriculum outcomes.
Cindy Mendoza is a math and language arts teacher at SIS.
“There are a lot of ways to incorporate the explosion into the curriculum goals that are set for us. In language arts, the students can use the identity they’ve been given to develop a voice and persona and write a personal narrative. While in math, we’ve been working on equation problems.
“So we’d take information about the events of the day and transfer it into knowledge they know now. On the Mont Blanc there were 2,622 tonnes of TNT. So I’d tell them to convert it to pounds. And then we’d workout how many U-Hauls it would take to lug that around. So we’ve been relating it to things they can connect it to,” explained Mendoza.
Boyd said the Titanic activity was a powerful learning experience. She expects the same from this instalment.
“It’s one of those experiences that students will look back in their schooling and remember the experience. And at the same time they’ll remember the Halifax Explosion as well.”