Digital Historial Project celebrated at Museum

June 30, 2016   ·   0 Comments

When most kids graduate high school, some of the greatest accomplishments under their belts are awards, scholarships, and high grades. But for the junior year graduates of the 2016 Digital Historian Project program, they can go on to their post-secondary goals boasting the accomplishment of becoming published authors.

The Digital Historian Project was spearheaded by Neil Orford, a teacher at Centre Dufferin District High School, to provide students with a way to incorporate math and history into an academic program.

The idea came as an expansion to veteran Ken Wallace’s Digital War Memorial at the Dufferin Museum and Archives, which consisted of stories and information on the 700 veterans who had once lived in the area.

While the Digital Historian Project has existed in one form or another for approximately nine years, it officially became a program open to students in all three Dufferin High Schools last year.

On Monday night, students from the second official year of the program celebrated their successful completion of the 2016 Digital Historian Project, and the launch of their book.

“We’ve had a really, really successful junior year,” said Mr. Orford. “We’re all really happy. Sometimes experiments don’t turn out, but these turned out beautifully.”

He added that the plan for this group was to take the deep research the students were doing with the lives of the veterans and turn it into a book.

Because the program is a digital project, the class wrote an iBook using some of the latest Apple technology. This technology allowed the students to make the book highly tactile, featuring widgets, music, and videos (which were also created by the students).

To make the process even more special for these students, Mr. Orford brought in a professional historian to help them put together the book. Blake Heathcote, author of Unremarkable, which tells the story of a Dufferin County veteran, worked to shepherd the students through the process.

“[Mr. Heathcote] gave the kids a bit of a bump in confidence,” said Mr. Orford. “Having someone who has had success in the ‘real world’ could look at the work they have done and provide a really strong confirmation of their talents. He was just as proud Monday night as anyone was.”

The group also had an opportunity to go to Ottawa and research at the Library and Archives of Canada, exposing them to the talent and skills required for professional research.

“I always like to point out that this is the only program in Dufferin County that brings together kids from all three high schools for an academic program,” added Mr. Orford. “It’s not a sports program, or a leadership building program, it’s an academic research-based program.”

This year saw the Ministry of Education complete a review of the program, as well as film the students to promote this kind of program across the province and Canada.

“They are really excited about this as a way of engaging kids in a highly sophisticated, research-based program,” he said. “It is a credit to the school board and museum that they invest their time, money, and resources into these really unique projects.”

Monday night’s graduation ceremony and book launch could easily be described as a success. There were approximately 60 people in attendance, including parents, veterans, family members, school board officials, museum staff, and some members of the community.

“It was a very warm and inviting event, with lots of very proud parents, kids and teachers,” said Mr. Orford. “The kids were enormously proud of themselves. They can walk out now and say that in the course of one semester, they became published authors.”

This fall, the work of the 2016 DHP graduates will be featured in a video produced by the Ontario Ministry of Education on “21st century learning units” which will be available online at: 21stCenturyLearning/innovations_video.html                                                                                                             Remarks and presentations were made Mr. Orford and by Julie McNevin, the Education Programmer for DCMA. The 2016 class valedictorian for the ceremony was Aidan Crandall.

The Digital History Project was the Winner of the Government of Canada History Award in 2015 and will be offered to Dufferin students from all three secondary schools again in 2017. For more information visit:

The book, Epitaphs of War: told through the Stories of Dufferin Veterans is not available on the market yet, but will be available through the DCMA website, as well as on Amazon, once it has been published.

With files by Marni Walsh

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