Since it opened in November, Mister and I have been regular visitors to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
And while we've always been moved by what an immersive, interactive and insightful experience it is for us adults, it was not until this week that I've come to realize what an education resource the CMHR is for students of all ages from countries around the world.
This all came to light this week as I toured the Museum with a Grade 11 Canadian history class who was learning about the role of Canadians within the context of subjects covered in the Breaking the Silence and Examining the Holocaust galleries.
Now, before I get into the educational experience, I must add just how many students were in the CMHR on the Thursday I visited. This Grade 11 class was just one of many, with students ranging from early elementary school up to senior levels of high school, all while tours with senior citizens and numerous foreign groups were going on throughout the galleries.
The CMHR, as of next month, will have hosted (or is projected to have hosted) over 20,000 students during the period from January to June 2015. On average five school groups tour in the morning, with another five touring in the afternoon -- all this on a non-busy day.
Now don't let this be a deterrent to those of you looking to tour the building in solitude during the day; it's a big place, with numerous galleries filled with vast amounts of detail along with ample space for quite contemplation (which is needed given some of the subject matter).
In fact, this was my sixth visit, and there are still spaces I have not explored, while I've only skimmed the surface of the interactive displays that are located throughout all the galleries.
During the school tour, which was lead by an informative guide with a degree in international relations, the students were exposed to some of the unsavoury realities inherent in Canada's post World War II role.
A central exhibit in the Examining the Holocaust gallery is the “broken-glass” theatre which examines Canada’s own experiences with anti-Semitism. It was in this theatre that the students watched a video which emphasized how roles can be fluid -- not simply polar. After they were given a class exercise whereby they dissect how individual's actions could see them categorized as an upstander, bystander, victim, or perpetrator.
This theatre, surrounded by the heartwrenching, graphic and weighty stories and photos of Holocaust victims is way more immersive than a classroom could ever be, providing not just an educational experience but actually challenging the students to pursue the greater good when confronting human rights related issues.
It was logical that the next room on the tour involved going further into Level 4 of the Museum, on to the Breaking the Silence exhibit.
In this gallery atrocities from across the globe are illuminated, which again are revealed to not be straightforward cases of perpetrator and victim. The central piece of this exhibit (depicted in the lede photo) is a massive touchscreen panel where students can explore, via a world map, cases from across the globe. A wall in the exhibit also houses sections where mini-documentary films tackle all manner of subjects, from the slave trade in West Africa, to the Armenian genocide.
As you can see, all of this utilizes mediums that to old folks like me (cell phones didn't even exist when I did my undergrad) may seem advanced, while to these current students it's part and parcel with what they grew up with. It all makes for interactive learning that goes far beyond what you can get in a classroom setting -- and yes, the subject matter on the whole is of course not cheerful, but there are also inspirational stories throughout.
And this is just two exhibits on one floor, so it's evident that a single class could visit many times throughout the semester and be exposed to new content every time.
Who knows just how many students this will inspire to a future fighting for what's right.
If you are a visiting teacher, or a student tour operator, you must put the CMHR on your itinerary.
Only in The Peg chronicles the adventures of the Peg family–Missus, Mister and Lil’ Peg–as they discover everything there is to see and do in Winnipeg. Follow them on Twitter at @tourismwpg or visit them on Facebook. For even more info on Winnipeg, visit www.tourismwinnipeg.com. Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter to stay in the loop on the latest information, contests, and upcoming events!