This program of the National Trust for Land and Culture (British Columbia) engages up to 150 elementary school children (9-10 years) annually in learning about a cultural icon in their community, and the efforts being made to ensure its conservation, in ways that resonate and are relevant to them in their daily lives.
It encourages those children – and, through them, their families and friends – to participate in conservation measures in their community, highlighting and demonstrating the power of story-telling and self expression as a means of participation.
“Exploring the Lighthouse” is a school program delivered in partnership between the National Trust for Land & Culture (NTLCBC), the Sheringham Point Lighthouse Preservation Society (SPLPS) and Change Canada Consultants Ltd. (CCC).
It introduces elementary school age children (age 9-10) in the communities of Sooke and Shirley (British Columbia) with their own community’s history and heritage by connecting them with the Sheringham Point Lighthouse (a designated Canadian Heritage Lighthouse, built in 1912, and recently transferred to SPLPS for conservation and protection. Restoration of the lighthouse is currently underway, with the support of NTLCBC and CCC).
Now in its third year, the program has become an acknowledged and anticipated part of the school curriculum for the two (hoping to be three) participating schools. It involves up to 150 children in grades 3, 4 and 5. The program consists of the following elements:
a) Photography – each student is provided with a camera (cell phone camera, donated through NTLCBC) and, guided by one of our program leaders who is an experienced photographer, given the opportunity to take photographs of what they see and the details that catch their attention (both the structures and the surrounding environment).
b) Story-telling – the students gather as a group with one of our program leaders who is an experienced author of children’s books, and who talks with them about the power of story-telling, and how to structure and build a compelling story and narrative.
For more details about the program, and to view the on-line commemorative books, click here.
Children today have a greater range of opportunities open to them than at any time in recent history, and greater freedoms than ever before. Thriving in this chaotic environment requires an ability for all children to be able to find a strong foundation from which they can build their lives, achieve their full potential and realize their dreams.
For most of us, that foundation starts with the family, and extends outward into the community. Just as a tree needs deep roots to grow tall and strong, so does a child draw nourishment and vitality from his or her own roots, from the comfort of belonging, from having a place to call home.
Understanding and, in particular, experiencing their own connections to the people and places around them is invaluable for children in so many ways. Learning about their own and their community’s history provides a base from which they can explore their world and help them answer that most fundamental of questions: “how did this come to be?”
Our history – our heritage – is not just an academic pursuit to be left to historians. It’s not just about dates and obscure locations, nor is it just about great battles, world-shaking events, the comings and goings of kings and queens and presidents. It’s also about the lives of the people who lived here before, their struggles and triumphs, their thoughts and ideas that nurtured their families, built their communities and shaped their world. It’s about the stories our grandfathers told us, and those from our neighbours.
We all have stories in our lives and they are, in their way, as full of drama and intrigue as any of the great sagas of our history classes. It is our stories that shape us, that make us who we are.
Our history – our heritage – is best lived and experienced, understood through the things we can touch and feel, and passed on in a way that touches our hearts and our imaginations. It’s why we need to work hard to conserve and appreciate our heritage, not just the castles and stately mansions, but the cottages and the old lighthouses as well.
Those remnants of our past have stories to tell.
To help children in the local area strengthen their connections to their own community, we wanted to provide an opportunity for them to visit Sheringham Point Lighthouse, to learn about its history and operations, to appreciate its significance and understand why it is being conserved. It was also our hope to inspire them – and, through them, their families and friends – to take a personal interest in further exploring their community and helping to protect and celebrate the future of the Lighthouse.
“Exploring the Lighthouse” has, so far, engaged 250 children directly – and, through them, potentially a couple of thousand other family members and friends in understanding and participating in the conservation of community heritage resources. It reaches the children by harnessing their creativity, their curiosity and their own technologies, and applies those attributes to enhance our collective conservation work. The concept of heritage conservation is also now embedded in the curriculum of schools in this community and eagerly awaited each year by the next group of participants. In a sense, it is targeting and growing the next generation of active, concerned community members who see the conservation of their community’s heritage to be of value and to be engaged.