A Raft River Elementary School student travelled from Clearwater to Victoria recently to take part in the Provincial Heritage Fair and week-long history camp.
Annika Wadlegger earned a spot at the provincial event after receiving top honors at the regional fair held last spring in Kamloops. With confidence and enthusiasm, the Grade 7 student explained her project on Capt. James Cook to a crowd circulating through the July 7 exhibit held in the Royal BC Museum.
She talked about her research with the Hon. Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Minister Responsible for the Heritage Branch, as well as the Hon. Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for the Provincial Capital Commission all of which are primary funding agencies for the heritage fair program.
Tasked with creating a research project on some significant person or event in Canadian history, the 11-year-old focused on the achievements and legacy of the renowned British explorer, including his detailed mapping of largely unchartered waters during the 1700s. In particular, Annika found Cook’s adventures along British Columbia’s west coast fascinating.
“He was the first explorer to enter Nootka Sound and the first European to make land there,” she said. His legacy was not all positive, she pointed out, noting that trading with the Nuu-chah-nulth people had detrimental consequences. “He traded utensils, guns and alcohol for furs. Later, 170 ships from seven different countries arrived in the area and wiped out the sea otter population.”
Seeking answers to a question and following where curiosity leads is a great learning experience, says provincial fair organizer Tom Morton. “From their own family stories and local histories, they learn how people, things and events connect in the larger picture.”
The fair program also provides an opportunity for young British Columbians to make friendships with like-minded youth and make connections with people and communities outside their home towns.
While in B.C.’s capital for the five days leading up to the exhibition the 80 students and their chaperones toured a number of educational and heritage sites including the Royal BC Museum, the Parliament Buildings, Fort Rodd Hill, Fisgard Lighthouse and Canada’s oldest Chinatown. This year, the students also toured Ross Bay Cemetery, where many of B.C.’s first settlers were buried, including Sir James Douglas and Emily Carr.
“The whole fair element can be very exciting,” Morton said. “The project-based learning and critical thinking in examining sources also fits the new proposed curriculum. These kids are very enthusiastic, very engaged and ask very thoughtful questions.”
Their trip to Victoria was a great fit, he said. “There are so many sights and places to visit in the Capital that are important to the history of British Columbia. It is a repository of our collective memories.”
It was Annika’s first trip to Victoria. “I’m so happy I got to go there,” she said. “The visit was awesome.”
Visiting the Royal BC Museum was a highlight. “I love old things, and standing in the old western town and Chinatown exhibits was amazing. I could close my eyes and imagine I was in the olden days.”
And that’s a Capital experience for a young history buff.