Welcome to Juno75: Above and Beyond

Each epoch of history is made up of countless events, some of which define eras and shape the future. The Battle of Normandy and the Canadian involvement in the landings on Juno Beach are some of our most important moments – moments that would come to define the second half of the 20th century. After the Axis powers had overrun much of Europe, the Allied forces needed a foothold from which to launch the counter-offensive that would lead to the ultimate liberation of Europe and the end of the Second World War (WWII).

The Juno75: Above and Beyond commemoration project aims to engage young people in developing an appreciation for the many individuals who contributed to the success of Juno Beach and the Battle of Normandy. Through research into the life and contributions of an individual, young people will be able to create meaningful digital commemorations in honour of those individuals. The Juno75 commemoration project has three core goals:

  • To engage Grade 6-11 students in local research about an individual from their community who contributed to the Juno Beach landings and the Battle of Normandy;
  • To involve students in micro-history by considering the role of individuals in shaping of larger events that directed the course of history;
  • To have students make effective use of digital tools to design, create, and share a meaningful commemoration in honour of an individual who contributed to Juno Beach and the Battle of Normandy, as well as to their community in post-war Canada (if they made it home from the war).

The lessons supporting the Juno75: Above and Beyond project have been developed around a distinction between memorials and commemorations. Memorials—which include street names, names of buildings such as schools, statues, and tombstones—help to preserve the memory of the individual, but on their own do not tell the story of that person’s contributions. Commemorations—which comes from the Latin word commemorare meaning “bring to remembrance”—involve, in some form, a story that captures the nature of the individual’s actions. Remembrance Day services, toasts, historical plaques, and even songs can be examples of commemorations. To ensure that students capture the story of the individual they chose to commemorate, the Juno75 project employs the 7 Sentence Story Structure featured on the Defining Moments Canada website.

Recognizing that Juno75: Above and Beyond is an ambitious endeavour, the lessons provided have been designed to allow for multiple entry points that require varying degrees of time and complexity. Ideally, the intent is for students to engage in local history by researching an individual who contributed in some way to the success of the Juno Beach landings and the Battle of Normandy. In practical terms, identifying a local individual who contributed may be very time consuming and challenging for intermediate students. Most online data bases dealing with the military role of Canadians in WWII focus on those who died in war, which makes identifying surviving personnel more complicated. This challenge is further compounded by the fact that it may be difficult or impossible to search by community or region. Consequently, students need to have identified the person they wish to research prior to using many online sites.

The following three entry points outlined below ensure that as many classes and students as possible can successfully engage with the project:

  1. Locate and research a local contributor:
    This task may be the most time consuming and complex option. Students must first explore their local community to find the name of an individual whom they would like to research in order to build a digital commemoration. This can be done by visiting a local cenotaph, local cemeteries and local museums, or looking through local history sources, scanning plaques in local high schools (if they date back to the WWII era), as well as by talking with neighbours or family members.

  2. Locate an individual who contributed using an online database:
    If locating a local person who contributed is beyond the time or ability of the students, the process can be shortened by having students visit one of several sites included in the List of Online Data Bases of Canadians in WWII (see page 9-10). Students will still be able to create a meaningful digital commemoration for someone who contributed to Juno Beach or the Battle of Normandy. However, this individual may be from a community other than their own. Students will need to gather as much direct information about the individual as possible from online sources and supplement their research using inferences they draw from examining film footage, photographs, reading accounts, or watching the vignettes posted on the Defining Moments Canada website.

  3. Select an individual from the Defining Moments Canada Vignettes:
    If there is limited time for students to engage in online research, teachers may wish to have students select one of the individuals highlighted in the vignettes about whom to create a meaningful digital commemoration. In this case, students organize the evidence gathered using the 7 Sentence Story Structure to make their commemorations more meaningful. The primary challenge in this variation of the task is for students to consider how they could use music, their own narration, images, etc., to create a more meaningful commemoration, one that draws both on the details provided by the vignette as well as the accompanying biography and contextual materials.

The four lessons written to support the Juno75: Above and Beyond project were designed to flow into one another, with opportunities for teachers to select or adapt the lessons or learning pathway to ensure the project best meets the needs of their learners.

  • The first lesson introduces students to the concept of commemorations and begins their thinking about what makes an effective and meaningful commemoration.
  • The second lesson, with multiple entry points as described above, helps students to select the individual for whom they will develop a commemoration and to begin the process of gathering information about their life and contributions.
  • The third lesson provides an (optional) opportunity to take students into greater depth as they learn to do more nuanced analysis of the evidence they have gathered.
  • The fourth and final lesson encourages students to consider how they can best leverage digital resources to create a highly effective commemoration.

A Note of Caution:
Commemorations, by their nature, highlight the most positive aspects of someone’s life and often ignore or gloss over less flattering details. This bias may become problematic when the person’s words or actions proved to be deeply hurtful to others, e.g., promoting racist views or taking actions that led to lasting harm.

This approach potentially creates what the celebrated Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie refers to as the “danger of the single story.” She suggests the danger of the single story is not that it is incorrect, but rather that it is incomplete. In other words, a commemoration provides some information about a person’s life, but often not a comprehensive story. In creating a commemoration, students must be vigilant in honouring the contributions and sacrifices the individual made in building and defending Canadian values, without glossing over or ignoring actions or behaviours that harmed or contradicted those same values. Lindsay Gibson’s article, “Thinking Historically About Canadian Commemoration Controversies,” provides a very useful framing of the issue and offers helpful guidelines that students can use in determining how we shape commemoration narratives.