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The Great Canadian History Adventure Review by Annette Vellenga

Anneke van der Merwe
The Great Canadian Adventure
Box 4, Arrowwood, AB, T0L0B0

The Great Canadian History Adventure, by Anneke van der Merwe, is a monthly subscription package that takes the subscriber to a new Canadian province every month. Each month comes with a sturdy cardboard cover. This keeps the pages from being bent in the mail. For this review, I received three months at once. They came in well-packaged bubble manila envelope, they arrived in pristine shape. Price varies from $29.95 - $335.40 depending on the length of the subscription ordered.

Full- colour images and clearly written text greet the reader on every page and a fact sheet introduces you to The Great Canadian Adventure Facebook community where you will find inspiration for completing your study of each province. This fact sheet provides you with the name of your guide, how many pages you get to smash, what you will need for supplies as well places you might need to go (like the library).

Video links are provided, though I could not get them to work, as well as an overview of how to work through the course and complete it in one month. The author suggests a movie of the month for both older and younger viewers. She also supplies a list of suggested books to read for each topic area.

The actual lessons are provided on quality paper, printed on one side only. It is a paper with a heavyweight, feeling smooth and solid in the hand. Printing on one side only facilitate students making their smashbooks. Smashbooks are scrapbooking.

Numerous images are included, so that along with the text and various activity sheets, students can make a memorable book to remember their studies. Including pictures of meals and other hands-on activities will make a gorgeous book that the student can go through on their own or with loved ones.

Smash book papers can vary from construction paper, cardstock or whatever paper is on hand. Different backgrounds are provided so you can add an additional visual element to your book pages.

Each month’s table of contents lists clearly what is in each subscription along with instructions on how to smash history. The point of The Great Canadian History Adventure is for each student to make their own history book based on their research. Each student will be impacted by different stories and lessons, so they will make a history smash book that is all their own.

Each subscription pack ranged from 45 to 55 pages. Additional pages are provided as a download. These included sibling pages, colouring pages, and introductory letters. Recently these pages are given via the Facebook group.

Starting with Newfoundland and Labrador, you will find yourself working your way across our beloved country of Canada. Each province has its own history guide in the form of a native of that province. So Wiskacan walks us through the history of Newfoundland and Labrador, Sunow through Nova Scotia and Amelie jaunts us through New Brunswick.

For instance, with Newfoundland and Labrador, Wiskacan introduces us to the original peoples of Newfoundland. Wiskacan teaches us how his people lived and what was important to them (for instance the Caribou). As we read the story of Newfoundland and Labrador questions are posed for us among the text such as “What does it mean when grandfather says without caribou, there is no caribou?”

Once learning about the initial peoples of the land we are slowly brought through the arrival of the first immigrating peoples. Full- colour maps show how colonial borders were laid out. The reader is shown how the political associations of the home countries affected people who could be living quite peacefully with each other in a new country. War on the home front eventually led to war in their new land. Interesting quests are provided as you read, such as “what are allies and why are they formed?” Students are invited to interact with Canada’s history with questions “what advantage did each party have over each other?” when discussing the British and Mi’kmaq peoples.

Occasionally a series of questions would be asked, helping students think through issues uncovered. No answers are provided, making this truly a “what do you think” exercise. For example: “What are the pros and cons of filling a large ship with cargo?” and “Is colonisation wrong?”

My son and I read from the text and looked through the images, we did not turn any of them into a smashbook. We found the text to be an appropriate level for ages 8 and up. My son at age 13 loved that questions made him think.

We did find it interesting to learn the history of the people who first lived here. Finding out how people lived, and thought is always intriguing and helps us see ourselves better. When we learned about fiddleheads, my lad exclaimed “we’ve had these before! They were good! I didn’t know they were good for you!”  

The images provided were excellent for recall.Since we chose not to make a smashbook, I used the images provided to double-check my son’s memory. They proved a good visual aid.

It was not immediately apparent to me what a smashbook was. I am not sure why it took a while for me to connect smashbook with a scrapbook. We understand scrapbooking in this household. My son is not a scrapbooker, but I am so while this would have appealed to me when I was younger, it did not appeal to my son.

I love how, with all the information that is provided, it is easy to follow bunny trails. Learning about caribou can led into how does one tan a hide, use the bones and sinews, discussions on if people of a protestant faith should thank an animal for dying, queries on the benefits of following the caribou, or if it would be better to just wait for the annual migration.  My son and I had many good discussions.

The smashbook facilitates holding on to the learning done. If you merely follow the text, most smash books would look similar, but if you engage in different research, each smashbook made would look quite different. Each student would find different elements to focus on, adding in pictures and text of their own.

If you have a student who is more research paper based, they could easily write a report, make a diorama, or anything they wanted to do to show what they learned. I can easily see using the provided images to make felt board pieces and then narrate what you have learned. The smashbook images are easily adaptable to a variety of research presentations.

This monthly subscription is fascinating. For instance, the section about pitcher plants could easily be expanded into a mini-study on other carnivorous plants. Meals could be made that highlight each province. A lesson in scurvy could become a review paper on how to cure scurvy using natural and medical methods.

I would love to see each face page for each new month have the province being studied in a different colour. Currently, it is a red map of Canada, highlighting the new province in another colour.

During my review period, I could not get the video playlist to work. I assume this is a work still in progress and look forward to seeing how their videos complement the lessons.

-Product Review by Annette Vellenga, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2019