WWU's Study Canada program teaches teachers about Canada

Tina Storer
for Western Today

For more than 35 years, during the last week of June, 20 social studies teachers and supervisors attend the annual Study Canada Summer Institute for K-12 Educators offered by the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University.

Although registration is limited to 20 participants annually, teachers from every state of the union have attended the course, which is now renowned in K-12 education circles for fostering Canadian Studies curricula in American classrooms.

Offered by WWU as a special 3-credit course (C/AM 410), Study Canada was held on campus in Bellingham for many years to take advantage of the many Canadian Studies specialists on faculty and WWU’s proximity to the border for field trips. However, as the program grew into a premier professional development program on Canada, it was vital to provide an immersive in-Canada learning experience by holding the course in a variety of Canadian cities, beginning with Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., eight years ago. Since 2011, the six-day program has been held in Ottawa, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec, with “A Capital View of Canada: Nations within a Nation” as its theme.

"I have participated in many professional development programs, both in the U.S. and around the world, and this is by far the best program," said John Baldridge, an American history teacher at Mount St. Mary High School in Oklahoma City and a 2012 summer institute participant. "I enjoyed Study Canada every single day and learned more than I could have imagined. I have also been inspired to teach it extensively in my classes."

That's exactly the program’s goal, said Tina Storer, the education and curriculum specialist at WWU who has coordinated the program since 2000.

"As a U.S. Department of Education-designated National Resource Center on Canada, it is our Center’s mandate to encourage and increase Canadian Studies across the U.S.," she said.

Teaching about Canada is encouraged by the Department of Education as well as by leading educational organizations such as the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council for History Education and the National Council for Geographic Education.

It is vital that American teachers encourage greater student understanding of what the differences are between the United States and Canada and to explore why these differences exist despite common historical roots and so many surface similarities. Teaching about Canada -- more than any other nation -- inevitably leads senior students to a better understanding of what it means to be American and how we fit into the North American and global landscape.

The original Study Canada program directors, Robert L. Monahan, Donald C. Wilson and Donald K. Alper, had no idea how well received and long-lasting the program would be when they first organized the workshop in 1976 with funding from the Government of Canada.

"Study Canada motivates and often inspires educators to teach more about Canada, and they return to their schools sharing enthusiasm for Canada with their students and colleagues," said Alper, director of Western's Center for Canadian-American Studies since 1992. "It is a vital outreach program that has served our education system well."

The 2014 Study Canada Summer Institute for K-12 Educators will begin in Ottawa on Thursday, June 26, and end in Montreal on Tuesday, July 1 (Canada Day), to provide participants with a balanced understanding of the history, geography and politics of North America.

The $600 registration cost includes all course fees and instruction (including three undergraduate quarter credits or 40 clock hours, if needed), five nights’ shared lodging, five breakfasts, one dinner, some activities and one-way transportation from Ottawa to Montréal. Travel to Canada is not included.

Ten $200 travel awards are available. Additional program details and registration forms are posted at http://www.k12studycanada.org/scsi.html.

Interested applicants can register until May 1 (or earlier if the maximum is reached). If the class is full, notification will be posted online.