Heritage celebrated

Diana Yeager/NNSL photo Rochelle Smith, left, dons her suffragette costume from her heritage fair project, and Emerson Beck displays her K'amba Carnival trophy for dogsledding, which runs in her history. The students took part in the NWT Heritage Fair on May 6 and 7 in Yellowknife.

Diana Yeager/NNSL photo
Rochelle Smith, left, dons her suffragette costume from her heritage fair project, and Emerson Beck displays her K’amba Carnival trophy for dogsledding, which runs in her history. The students took part in the NWT Heritage Fair on May 6 and 7 in Yellowknife.

Two students from Hay River recently travelled to Yellowknife to showcase projects at the NWT Heritage Fair.

Grade 6 student Rochelle Smith and Emerson Beck, who is in Grade 4, qualified for the territorial fair by winning first and second place, respectively, in a local heritage showcase at Princess Alexandra School.

As a result, the two spent May 6 and 7 in Yellowknife presenting their research projects in front of judges in a competition for students from Grades 4 to 9.

“The idea is to encourage young people to learn about their heritage,” said Smith. “It could be any kind of heritage but there has to be a personal connection.”

Princess Alexandra teacher Stephanie Patterson, a recent import from Nova Scotia, said she has been involved in heritage fairs in the past and was excited to bring the idea back to Hay River.

“I don’t know what the history is on Hay River having a fair but it was something that I really enjoyed doing in the past so I thought it would be something the kids would benefit from here, as well,” said Patterson.

She had 15 students working outside of school hours to create their heritage projects for the local fair.

“I love how kids get so enthusiastic about what they’re researching,” she said. “It has a different layer to it versus a science fair – they have that personal connection with what they are learning. We really did grab some interest from some unlikely candidates, seeing as it was extracurricular.”

Smith’s project placed first in the South Slave, and third overall for the NWT.

Her project – called The Fight to Become a Person – featured Smith dressed as a suffragette and singing a song about women’s rights. The focus of the project was the Famous Five, a group of women who fought to allow women to sit in the Canadian Senate.

“They were not considered persons under the law,” Smith explained. “They had the right to vote but they couldn’t sit in the Senate because they weren’t considered persons. So they were fighting to have that changed.”

Her presentation has helped her become more interested in history.

“When I first learned about the Famous Five in Girl Guides, I didn’t really know who they were. It was just one of the badges we were supposed to work for,” she said. “So doing this project, I realized that heritage can be more interesting than it seems when you dig deeper.”

Beck’s presentation featured a history of dogsledding.

She said her family’s involvement in dogsledding goes back many generations.

“When I heard about the fair, the first thing that popped into my head was dogsledding,” said Beck. “It runs in my blood and it’s part of my heritage.”

Beck even had a special prop for her presentation: a first-place trophy from the K’amba Carnival dogsled race in 2012, when she was racing with a one-dog team.

She interviewed her grandfather, Danny Beck, for most of her information.

“I didn’t place (in Yellowknife) but I still had lots of fun,” she said.

Accompanied by Patterson, the girls were treated to an educational weekend in Yellowknife, including a tour of the legislative assembly, a glass-blowing workshop, birch tapping and a cinematography course.

The cinematography course might come in handy for Smith, who will be turning her presentation into a video. Those who came home from Yellowknife with a win have been invited to turn their projects into a short video which will be judged. The top two winners will travel to Ottawa for the Young Citizens Program hosted by Canada’s History for Kids.

“My mom is making me the best wig ever for a British judge,” said Smith, who will be acting out different characters in her video.

Patterson said she plans to bring the local heritage fair back next year but hopes to expand it more to older students, as well.

She has also been elected as the South Slave representative for the NWT Heritage Society, and will be responsible for organizing local students and bringing them to Yellowknife for the territorial competition.

As for next year’s projects, both Smith and Beck have an idea of what they will present, but neither would reveal their secrets.

–Diana Yeager