Government comes alive for St. Albert teachers

Yvonne Jones sits in the same chair used by the Governor General to
open Parliament.

Anyone who has ever taught or studied social studies knows how bland it can be learning about government. But as St. Albert teachers Andrea Daly and Yvonne Jones discovered, government studies can be exciting when you see government in action and learn about it firsthand.

Daly, who teaches at Leo Nickerson Elementary School, and Jones, who teaches at Bellerose Composite High School, were chosen to join teacher colleagues from across Canada for a week on Parliament Hill, sponsored by the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy. Daly found that her experience in Ottawa helped her bring the topic to life for her Grade 4 students. "It was an amazing experience," says Daly. "Parliamentary process can be dry and difficult to explain to elementary students, they don’t understand the process." Jones teaches high school social studies, covering topics such as comparing the Canadian and American political systems. Her trip to Ottawa gave her stories to share with her students.

The Alberta teachers found themselves in Ottawa at an exciting time. The Gomery Report was released and they were the first group to get an audience with the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s new Governor General. The Governor General asked the group what they, as teachers, felt that she could do for education. "You feel like you can make a difference," says Daly.

The two teachers were honoured to participate in a Remembrance Day ceremony, and they were part of an emotional display of patriotism when their group unfurled the Unity Flag (the large Canadian flag that was used in the referendum) in front of the National War Memorial and sang O Canada.

Daley and Jones learned about the senate and how senators are appointed, and met Senator Tommy Banks. They also learned about the role of members of Parliament (MPs) from the MPs themselves, thereby gaining an insider’s perspective. "At the end of the day, [MPs] have a job to do, and it’s a process of working together to further our nation," says Jones. Another highlight of the week-long visit to Ottawa was learning about the history of Canada and the nation’s capital.

Both Daly and Jones recommend this professional development opportunity to their colleagues, especially those teaching social studies or classes that cover the topic of government or Canada’s history. "It takes a while to go through the application process," says Jones. "But it’s a good process to go through for your own professional development because it makes you think about where you are and what your goals are." Teachers are encouraged to keep applying even if they don’t get accepted the first time, as generally it takes a few years to get in.

"It was such an amazing and different experience. Things were constantly happening. You just pick up that energy. It was a very powerful week!" says Jones.

To find out more about the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy, contact the Library of Parliament at 1-866-599-4999 or  

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