University of Lethbridge students create new tools for kids to learn Alberta history at Galt Museum

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WATCH: Two new projects, produced by students from the University of Lethbridge, will become part of Galt Museum's educational programs within the next year. The projects will help educate school children on local history. Jasmine Bala reports – Jun 17, 2019

Two University of Lethbridge students have created interactive learning tools for education programs at the Galt Museum and Archives, focusing on the history of southern Alberta.

Benjamin Weistra and LaRae Smith are both studying education and created their projects as part of the university’s applied studies course.

Smith created a board game for Grade 5 students, allowing them to experience firsthand what it was like to be a farmer during the Great Depression.

“It’s a new way of engaging students in a very academically grounded history where they’re actively engaging with the statistics on how much things cost back then,” Smith said Monday.

“They’re actually paying the historic price and so they’re learning that through playing.”

Students playing the board game will be able to make purchases, choosing which crops to plant and which agricultural techniques to use. Their farms will be hit by drought, grasshoppers and low market prices — the same difficulties that farmers experienced in the 1930s — and they’ll have to make tough decisions.

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Weistra’s project is designed for Grade 3 students learning about Ukranian-Canadian internment in the First World War. It focuses on the tools prisoners used to escape from a Lethbridge camp in 1916.

“Being a student who’s of Ukrainian heritage, it means a lot to me to be able to take a project about a darker part of history for Ukrainians in Canada [and bring it to light],” Weistra said.

These tools, however, aren’t readily available for Grade 3 classes to see at the Galt because they are being held at the Glenbow Archives in Calgary.

Weistra’s project will use 3D printing, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to create accurate models of the tools the students will be able to see.

“We can either create [3D] models of the tools themselves or we can create displays,” he explained. “We can have the kids have a display on the iPod in augmented reality so they can still move it around and see the dimensions of the object… or they could see it through a virtual reality headset.”

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The projects are part of the Galt’s efforts to make history more engaging for students.

“When they leave here, we want them to think, ‘Man, history is way cooler than I ever would have imagined,’” said Ashley Henrickson, the museum’s educator.

“Both Ben and LaRae really exceeded at that and in finding really cool and exciting ways to get kids really thinking about history.”

Smith’s board game will be added to the Galt’s programming in September and Weistra’s project is set to be completed by spring 2020.