In September 2015, BC’s Ministry of International Trade and Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism launched Bamboo Shoots: Chinese Canadian Legacies in BC with help from a working group of British Columbia teachers, the Royal British Columbia Museum, the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (LIAC) and our staff at Open School BC. Bamboo Shoots fulfills the Legacy Project’s mandate to provide age-appropriate resources for the K-12 curriculum to encourage students to discuss the issue of historical wrongs. The resource features a suite of lessons, an online gallery of archival items and a timeline-building card game for social studies students in British Columbia.
Early on we partnered with teachers who specialize in historical thinking who had a clear vision for the resource and members of the LIAC. Getting the resource to teachers and students around the province at no cost meant that online distribution would be key. But teachers firmly believed that the most useful resource was something they could put in students’ hands—something tangible. After all, historical thinking skills require students to ‘do history’ themselves, drawing conclusions and driving their own inquiry from primary resources. Those resources would include artifacts from daily life, excerpts of laws, photographs and news articles.
Online—but touchable. The directive sounded like something from a lesson in English literary devices: What is an oxymoron?
In a planning meeting, historians shared stories from BC’s Chinese Canadian history. Royal BC Museum Archivist Ann ten Cate gave us a long list of possible archival items that might support the lessons. Ann assured us this was only the surface—and yet the list already identified nearly two hundred documents, publications, and photos the BC Archives could offer. Royal BC Museum Curator Dr. Tzu-I Chung identified another fifty curatorial and archival items, and listed other museum collections in BC that could also provide material. The second challenge was set—make a careful selection from this rich pool without overwhelming students.
We asked ourselves “which comes first?” Do we pick photos, documents and curatorial items then write the lessons to those? Or do we commit to an idea for a lesson then hunt for the resources to match? We already had strong outlines for the lessons but a rigid plan put us at risk of not finding what we needed to support our specific ideas. Instead, we had to be content with the lessons evolving as we hunted for the best historical evidence for students.
Royal BC Museum staff toured us through the museum to view curatorial items then brought us down to the archives. There we spent several hours immersed in examining items narrowed down from the two lists and made our final selection. The museum chose some of these items to include as reproduced artifacts in The Writing on the Wall – Outreach Kit on Chinese Canadian Historical Wrongs, which would complement the lesson plans. And the writers went back to the draft lessons to see how we would complete them in light of our archival selections.
The result? Bamboo Shoots, a rich resource on the contributions of Chinese Canadians to the history, culture and economic prosperity of our province. The website distributes printable lesson plans and a template for the game, and offers a rich archive of photography and documents from 1857 to 2014 for easy access by teachers and students in the province and around the world. The Time Shuffle Game, downloadable wall poem posters and the artifacts in the outreach kit put the events of Chinese Canadian history in the hands of students, who will actively build their understanding from primary materials—online, but touchable.