Was Sir John A. Macdonald an Effective Leader: The Project

Local students visit Rideau Hall

Photo: Ben Welland

by Dylan Lollar, Grade 8, Southview Public School, Napanee

History, it binds us. It bring us together because it is the same for all of us. No matter who you are you have connections with everyone, rather everything, in history. That is why I was so excited to learn about our history project this year. We were given the inquiry question, "Was Sir John A. Macdonald an effective leader?" and it expanded from there.  In the beginning we went on a trip to the 'Bellevue House' located on Center Street in Kingston, Ontario. It was a residence of Sir John A. for about a year, from 1848 to 49.

There were documents of residence, postcards to and from his sister, and a presentation apropos the house and Macdonald. Whilst we were in Kingston, we had a presentation from local Macdonald aficionado Arthur Milnes regarding the integrity of Macdonald, and our inquiry question. More recently we have had a trip to Ottawa that started at Rideau Hall, where we got the honour to go to a presentation by His Excellency the Governor General of Canada, where we learned the description of his occupation and the role he plays in the government. We then took a tour of Rideau Hall where we saw the dwellings in which historic moments took place. Afterward, we departed to Parliament where we took an excursion of many buildings, including the House of Commons, Senate, and the library where we got to read documents concerning Macdonald. Preceding the outing at parliament, we went to the History Museum in Quebec, where there was a temporary exhibit vis-a-vis confederation. We ended our trip by going to the War Museum and toured many of their exhibits. As of the day of writing this, I have learned we are going to Queen's University in Kingston where we will view documentation and take a tour of Queens. This project has been such an educating and enjoyable process so far, and I am expecting that great things will continue to arise because of it. You cannot change history, so you best make the most of what it is.

The Fair

On May 7th we will be participating in what is called the Heritage Fair at McArthur Hall, Queen's University. There we will present our findings of an investigation related to our inquiry question, 'Was Sir John A. Macdonald an effective leader?'


This project is a very engaging and interesting, and overall one of the best ways to celebrate Macdonald's bicentennial birthday.

A Thank-You

I would like to thank the City of Kingston for funding the many trips we went/are going on. I would also like to thank the many wonderful teachers and staff that have contributed to this project.


Mayor Paterson's Welcome at the Sir John A Bicentennial

Photo: Tim Forbes

Below is the text of Mayor Paterson's Welcome on the front steps of City Hall on January 11, 2015.

Thank you Elders and through you, thank you to all our Aboriginal brothers and sisters for their example and their sharing with us a proud history and culture that inspires and informs all Kingstonians, and all Canadians.

And thank you to everyone for braving the weather to join us today on this, Sir John A.’s Bicentennial day!

Who else but Canadians would meet outside in January for a party!

But in all seriousness, for me as a Kingstonian, as Mayor of Kingston, and most importantly, as a very proud Canadian it is a high honour – perhaps the highest I have ever received – to stand here today, on the steps of this historic building, on Macdonald of Kingston’s bicentennial day.

Et au coeur de ce peuple, notre ville, Kingston, d’où un homme a émergé pour fonder une grande nation.

From this, our very own city, Kingston, a man went out and founded a great nation. From what were only four provinces in 1867, Sir John A.’s Canada now stretches proudly from sea-to-sea-to-shining-sea.
En commémorant cette journée particulière de Sir John A. Macdonald de Kingston, nous célébrons en fait quelque chose d’encore plus important : Nous célébrons le Canada. 
So in celebrating Macdonald of Kingston’s special day, we actually celebrate something even more important: We celebrate Canada itself.
And if there is one message that Sir John A. continues to call to us from history’s pages, it is this: His legacy reminds us that nation building, and community building is never complete. It is our duty, as heirs to the country and city Sir John A. so profoundly impacted, to continue the building and bridging Macdonald started.
And if we do so, as we will, Kingstonians and all Canadians will live up to what he promised for us.
In his words: “One people, one in necessity, one in business, one in trade, one in prosperity, and one in our prospects for the future.”
So with those words to guide us still, it is my happy duty to invite everyone inside City Hall for the birthday party of the century.
Heureux 200e anniversaire Sir John A.!
Happy 200th Sir John A.!
Thank you very much. Merci.

Photo: Tim Forbes

Students Share Their Experiences of Bellevue House

My blog about are Sir John A. MacDonald field trip.
by Stephen Young

On October 29th, we went to Bellevue House, were we got to see some of Sir John A. MacDonald’s very own possessions, one of his possessions was a walking stick. After looking at some of Sir John A. MacDonald’s letters my group got to see a video talking about some of Sir John A. MacDonald’s important personal events like when his wife died at age 50 of sickness. After watching the video we went to go see Sir John A. MacDonald’s house he rented for 13 months thinking the peace and quiet would help his wife (before she died). I still wonder how much it cost to rent the beautiful house. We got to see every single room in the house and got to see a beautiful sight of the lake. I still can’t believe that the maid’s room was the smallest room in the house. After the tour, we started a long walk to a library and stopped 3 quarters of the way to eat lunch and relax. When we got to the library we were given a tour of the library and got to talk to the man who makes all of the Prime Minister’s speeches, Arthur Milne, who let us call him “Art”. Arthur told us a few things that I did not know about Sir John A. Macdonald. One thing he told us was that Sir John A. Macdonald loved to get drunk. This is one of my favorite field trips because we got to go to a house close to 200 years old where Sir John A. Macdonald lived for 13 months and see a tree planted the same day Sir John A. Macdonald was born which is almost 200 years old. I wonder how much fun our next field trips will be.

The Bicentennial Curriculum Project

One hundred and eighty  local students in grades 6, 7 & 8 will produce projects by June, 2015 as the culmination of researching and engaging various primary and secondary resources, speakers, and artifacts pertaining to Sir John A.’s personal and professional life over the course of their 2014-2015 school year. The hope and intent is to present a more clear, broad and honest look at one of the best known Canadians who many credit with being the Father of our Nation today. The project the students produce can take any form including an essay, a speech, a Heritage Minute, a rant, a photo essay, a social media campaign, or any other format the students desire.

In collaboration with the Limestone District School Board, Parks Canada at Bellevue House, the Kingston Frontenac Public Library, Queen’s University Archives and Library, Parliament Hill/Federal House of Government and the Canadian Museum of History, The City of Kingston is coordinating this curriculum program as a part of the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial in 2015. The theme of the program is to investigate if Sir John A. was an effective political leader, toward asking the broader question, Does Kingston need a new hero?

Throughout the end of October and early November, the hundred and eighty students taking part in the program visited Bellevue House and participated in an initial “Local Expert” Workshop with Arthur Milne at Kingston Frontenac Public Library.

In the months to come, the students will have the opportunity to attend both the January 9th debate at the Grand Theatre: Empire Life Great Debate: Was Sir John A. the Greatest Canadian Prime Minister? and the January 11th Mayor's Welcome and the Manulife Bicentennial Birthday Bash as well as participate in visits to the Parliament Hill Library and Queen’s Archives to research and explore.

Beginning in April, the projects resulting from this program will be on display first in the collaborative “Genius Fair” and beginning in June, will be on public display in Memorial Hall, City Hall.


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