Vista Virtual School (VVS) students had the opportunity to tour the Edmonton and Calgary military museums; attending the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum, and The Military Museums of Calgary. Tours like these are important ways to learn more about the history of the Canadian military and service. It helps put the sacrifices people made during wartime and in peace, in perspective—including the realities and casualties of war.
It also helps us learn and focus on keeping peace, since we can see where our ancestors have been involved in preventing the devastation of war from affecting our lives and our future.
“It teaches me more about the people that wanted to fight for our country,” said VVS grade 6 student, Lilja R. “As that is very important because they fought for me!”
Attending these events around Remembrance Day is an important way to see how people in the past were involved in important conflicts throughout the world, including the First World War—where, in Edmonton, the bugle that was played to end the war, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, is part of the display.
“The most valuable thing about field trips like this is the citizenship component,” said VVS social studies teacher Christina Waller. “The museum really helps students think about what citizenship involves, and the—sometimes high—cost of standing for your country. And as more veterans pass away, it’s important that the messages about the sacrifices made continue to be promoted.”
In Calgary, the military museums are focused on all facets, including the regimental museums and Naval, Army and Airforce museums.
“We realize how fortunate we are today to live in a peaceful country,” said VVS teacher Janet Remus. “This activity gave us a greater appreciation for our history and the role Canada has played in the world.”
Some of the items on display included military and naval displays, including what living on a ship would look like, as well as life-size visuals of military actions.
“I find the VVS field trips interesting and educating,” said VVS grade 12 student Zoe B. “I thought it would be a good experience, and it was. I learned a lot.”
As a historic piece of Edmonton, the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre—completed in 1915—houses the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum in two galleries (Griesbach and Stone). The 49th Battalion, as it was known, was exemplary in both world wars, and has supported forces for NATO and UN operations. It was even commanded by W. A. Griesbach, a decorated soldier, lawyer, and former Mayor of Edmonton, Member of Parliament and Senator.
Many people in Alberta committed to joining the cause and fighting for the freedoms we have as a nation today. Local soldiers have had significant impacts on preventing world domination and enemies from advancing on other nations.
The Regiment was involved in many battles, including key Canadian victories in Ypres, Somme, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele in World War I, and Ortona, Italy and the Netherlands in World War II.
“I wanted to learn more about my heritage,” said Lilja R. “As there are people that were in the military in my family.”
The converted armoury in central Edmonton includes many war-related and historical items related to the late 19th century to the present.
“I chose to come because I wanted to learn more about Canada’s history,” said grade 12 student, Rebecca S. “It was very interesting to meet some of the [VVS] teachers and to put on some of the gear—it was interesting to actually feel it [the weight of the gear].”
Participants were able to try on uniforms, hats, camouflage and other military items, as well as seeing newsprint from the mid-20th century.
“My favourite part was trying on the uniforms,” said Waller. “It was a lot of fun and the students enjoyed it a lot. The displays were very interesting as well.”
There was a lot of history on display, as the two themed rooms also included many items related to military involvement in the wars, including historical items and clothing on display.
“The coolest thing I saw today was how some projectiles can be put on sticks and be launched from guns,” said Lilja R.
As the second-largest military museum in Canada, there is a lot to see. The Military Museums of Calgary hosts regimental items, Naval, Army, and Air Force history.
Students started the day looking at and handling artifacts from the Boer War, WWI, WWII, and Afghanistan.
“We wore gloves to do this,” said VVS math teacher, Janet Remus.
They then saw the Lord Strathcona’s Horse and Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Galleries—based on regiments from Calgary.
There was an armistice presentation of what the last 100 days looked like for Canadian soldiers in WWI, and then on explosive threats (landmines).
“I didn’t realize how prevalent landmines still are today,” said VVS elementary teacher, Sarah Limacher. “The boots are worn by minesweepers which you can tell are still active in many parts of the world as evidenced in the maps.”
The students also explored the Naval Gallery—which included naval planes and torpedoes.
“We also learned about many of the contributions Canada has made to world history,” said Remus. “For example, Canada has patented a camouflage design for military uniforms used in the Middle East. The uniforms are now designed using aerial photography of various (desert) landscapes to create camouflage patterns.”
All of this was part of a guided tour, where students learned the history, improvements, and achievements of Canada’s military.
“This activity was very cross-curricular. There were many links to social studies, but also to math and science, as we saw various applications of math and science to military technology and also how technology has changed,” said Remus. “For example, the gas masks used during WWI blocked one’s peripheral vision, whereas now, masks are better designed so that they no longer do this.”
Many of the displays were life-like re-creations of how it would be if you were experiencing the circumstance first-hand—including Canada’s role as a peace keeper. Did you know children [in war-affected countries] are taught that blue hearts are a symbol of peacekeepers?
It helps put things into perspective so we understand what motivated our forefathers to fight for our freedoms.
“An event like this gives students a chance to interact with real-life artifacts while meeting fellow students,” said Limacher.
And this tour was important, as it’s crucial to remember what went on in the past, so that we can learn from history and prevent tragedies such as the world wars from happening again.