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Upper Grand teacher wins national history award for program that combines math and history

For Immediate Release
October 22, 2015

GUELPH, Ontario – A teacher at Centre Dufferin District High School in Shelburne, Ontario, has won a Government of Canada History Award for his project that marries history and math for students in the Upper Grand District School Board.

Neil Orford created the Digital Historian Project (DHP) to provide a unique learning experience for students from three secondary schools: Centre Dufferin District High School in Shelburne, Orangeville District Secondary School, and Westside Secondary School in Orangeville.

“I am extremely honoured by the award,” said Orford. “It has been a rigorous process to go through, but very rewarding.”

Each day students work from the Dufferin County Museum and Archives (DCMA), where they conduct deep archival research and gather data to develop statistical analysis of history patterns, focusing in particular on 20th century Canadian veterans.

The program is conducted completely on a digital platform. Orford said that through their archival research, “[students] create content for both the museum database, which is extraordinarily extensive for a small museum, and also for the website of the Juno Beach Centre.”

The DHP allows senior students to hone their skills in both deep archival research and critical inquiry. The program also places an emphasis on fostering students to become active citizens in their communities.

The DHP consists of four courses that form an interesting marriage of history and math: Grade 11 Native Studies, Grade 12 Data Management Math, Grade 12 Canadian History and Grade 12 Interdisciplinary Studies, which focuses on museum work.

When asked about the curriculum, Orford said lot of people thought, “You guys are crazy putting math and history together” – but, “as any archivist knows, a great deal of time is spent doing data management if you’re a historian,” he said. “It became a very natural marriage.”

Orford said the DHP is possible because of “the hard work and innovative practice of a whole team of people,” including his teaching partner Asher Kirk-Elleker from ODSS, DCMA’s education co-ordinator Julie MacDonald, the staff at the DCMA, and of course the students from all three secondary schools.

“Year 1.0 of the DHP could not have had better students or families from these communities,” he said.

Orford has been teaching at Centre Dufferin DHS since 1997, and taught at Orangeville DSS for 11 years prior to that. He was the Head of Social Sciences Department at Centre Dufferin from 1997 to 2014, when he retired from the position to concentrate on the DHP.

He teaches history from grades 10 to 12 and also spends 12 weeks during second semester at the DCMA with the Grade 11 DHP class and seven weeks at Orangeville DSS doing research with the students.

In 2012, Orford won a Premier’s Award, as one of just five teachers named “Teacher of the Year” for 2011-2012. In 2013, he won the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Launched in June 2013, the Government of Canada History Awards honour teachers and students who work to connect with and celebrate their Canadian history.

The awards are presented by the Government of Canada and Canada’s National History Society, a registered charity devoted to the field of public history.

You can learn more about the Digital Historian Project on the Canada’s History website.


For more information:
Heather Loney, Communications and Community Engagement Officer
519-822-4420 ext.725
[email protected]

Categories: Media Releases