Bringing the experiences of Canadians from the Road to Liberation into your classrooms

The Normandy Invasion established a critical bridgehead from which Canadian and Allied forces could advance through Northwest Europe. Behind the operations and events of this period were the individuals whose contributions and sacrifices made victory over Nazi Germany possible. Now, 75 years later, many of their stories remain untold and their voices unheard. The imperative for Canadians to learn about them and share meaningful commemorations of their actions has never been stronger as their generation passes.

Teachers and students are ideally positioned to take-up this challenge through the VE Day 75: Normandy to Netherlands commemoration project. Here, they use an inquiry approach to learning, guided by historical thinking concepts to research, create and share story maps that address the question, “How did the contributions of Canadians help secure victory in Northwest Europe and the Liberation of Holland in 1944-45?”

The project has three core goals:

  • To engage Grade 6-11 students in research about Canadians who participated in Northwest Europe Campaign.
  • To involve students in micro-history by considering the roles of individuals in the shaping of larger events that directed the courses history.
  • To have students connect the stories of individuals to the places and events of the campaign through the design, creation and sharing of digital story map commemorations.

The following lessons use the extensive digital resources of Project 44, a site developed by The Canadian Research and Mapping Association to inspire youth to discover the lives and contributions of Canadians who participated in the “Victory Campaign.” Their interactive map, The Road to Liberation, includes aerial imagery, digitized war diaries, interviews and story maps of featured individuals. The lessons have been designed to provide multiple entry points that require varying degrees of time and complexity.

Each lesson provides students with opportunities to deepen their understanding of events and operations of this period of time while connecting to contextual information, developing critical thinking and building their digital skill sets. Teachers are encouraged to select and adapt lessons to ensure the project best meets the needs of their learners.

This project is an immersive means through which youth can build knowledge, awareness and appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices made by Canadians in the last 11 months of the war in Europe. It provides the opportunity for them to “do history” by creating digital story maps that communicate the actions of those who participated in the Northwest Europe Campaign. In the process, students interpret, reframe and share their commemorations with younger generations.