CDDHS students return from two week tour of European battlefields

November 23, 2016   ·   0 Comments

For over 10 years, Centre Dufferin District High School (CDDHS) history teacher Neil Orford has led Upper Grand District High School students on tours to Canadian Battlefields in Europe where they have commemorated the sacrifices made by veterans. The students have held ceremonies, dedicated name bricks at the Juno Beach Centre memorial and acted as youth Ambassadors on behalf of the Canadian Government.

The group returned home this week after travelling Europe for 13 days to commemorate another 24 Juno Beach bricks for Dufferin veterans at the memorial centre.  The 2016 Tour covered areas of Holland, Belgium, and France tracing the battle of Vimy Ridge and on to Juno Beach where student’s experienced what “Canadians fought through in the offing two world wars,” says Mr. Orford.

The European presentations are the summation of studies conducted by the students in the Digital Historian Project at the Dufferin County Museum and Archives (DCMA) over the semester.

The students’ travels were accompanied by retired Sergeant Bryan Goustos of Orangeville, sponsored by the County of Dufferin on the tour as their honoured veteran. Corporal William Power, a teacher at Orangeville District Secondary School, and a long-serving member of Canada’s military, was the first Veteran to receive a County subsidy that provides financial support for his place on the Tour, ensuring his invaluable contribution to the learning enrichment for the students he accompanies.

“We participated in four commemorative ceremonies on the tour,” Mr. Orford said, “with Sgt. Goustos leading the ceremonies and teaching the students throughout.”

The retired Corporal’s decorations include medals for service in Cyprus in 1989 and Bosnia in 1994, the CPSM or Peacekeeping Service Medal, the Canadian Decoration and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Earlier this year, Corporal Power told the media, “As a veteran, I feel that the support provided by Dufferin County promotes recognition of veterans while providing learning opportunities in which students can draw upon first-hand accounts and experiences to gain a more profound understanding of what it means to serve one’s country.”

This was his first time experiencing the battlefields of Normandy, and he said he was “excited to be part of a motivated group of students not only to help facilitate their learning but to expand my own learning and understanding through them.”

Mr. Orford founded the Battlefield Tour and the Digital History Project (DHP) involving deep, digital research and study of local veterans preserved in partnership with Dufferin County Museum and Archives. Students in DHP “combine the mathematical principles of statistical analysis with the rigour of historical inquiry,” he explains, “utilizing 21st century digital competencies to create a rich interactive ‘iBook’ that is unique in Canada.”

It is because of the DHP that CDDHS is ranked as number one in Canada for Veteran research at the Juno Beach Centre – winning the 2015 Government of Canada History Award.

Mr. Orford says this school year will be the last where he participates in the Battlefield Tour on behalf of Centre Dufferin.  “I will be traveling on my final tour with the digital historians in June to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of D-Day with 22 students and parents from all three Dufferin schools,” says Mr. Orford who plans to retire at the end of the school year.   

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