How do we teach Canadian history to K-12 students in a way that helps them engage with the problems facing today’s society? How do we tell the stories of such a diverse nation with a critical and balanced approach? How do we treat Indigenous history? These are the questions that Acadia Assistant Professor of Education, Dr. Jennifer Tinkham, is interested in solving. Currently collaborating on a SSHRC-funded ($2.5 million) Partnership Grant titled “Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future,” Tinkham and her colleagues are currently surveying methods of teaching history in our nation’s classrooms, while seeking new pedagogical practices that will provide powerful and engaging learning experiences for students.
Having taught in post-secondary Bachelor of Education and Masters of Education cohorts within Mi’kmaw communities in Nova Scotia, Tinkham, who holds a BEd from Acadia and a PhD from the University of Alberta, understands that context is extremely important in understanding the past, as are the motives behind the stories that we tell. When Dr. Tinkham began teaching at Indian Brook (Sipekneꞌkatik First Nation), the Mi’kmaw students quickly let her know that Canadian history, as it was being taught to them, was “not [their] history.”
This powerful experience inspired Tinkham to think critically about ways that teachers could incorporate historical thinking and indigenous knowledge into their history and social studies curricula. Focusing on the experience of Mi’kmaw students within Nova Scotia’s classrooms, her work has been published in journals like The Journal of American Indian Education and the Alberta Journal of Educational Research. Tinkham wants history to be engaging, accessible, and always mindful of context. History is, after all, extremely important in shaping how citizens engage with society and build civil competency. It is also extremely interesting.
In the next few years, Dr. Tinkham will also collaborate with Historic Nova Scotia (HNS) to make local historical knowledge accessible to a broad audience through “stories” on the HNS website. In doing so, she will provide active learning opportunities for Acadia’s education students to contribute their pedagogical knowledge, as well as receive training in archival research and preparing public history presentations.