Ah, Lynn Valley, centre of the universe… Geographically tucked in, nice and cozy, at the foot of the mountains and defined along one border by the mighty creek that might be a river. Gratefully located on the unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) lands.
In today’s forests, the ghosts of those who went before us continue to remind us to take care, keep the nature in this place. The dominant colour is green from forests that are and always have been lush and omnipresent. Thriving and growing, the traditional low-density houses are now taking their place beside high rises and townhouses with construction seemingly everywhere. Vibrant but somehow insular, this place is a community.
At the geographic, economic and emotional heart of this community lies Lynn Valley Elementary School.
The building is a jewel of architectural and cultural importance in its own right, taking its place in history. To look at Lynn Valley Elementary is to see so many things. It is a site with so much lived experience; the school gives educators and others a a glimpse into the history of teaching.
When we look at MONOVA’s exhibit A Landmark Transformed: 100 Years Serving The Community we are given some insight about what it would have been like to be a teacher in 1904. Oh, to walk a mile (as it was measured then) in Mistress Whiteley’s shoes!
2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the building originally constructed as the fourth Lynn Valley School and later restored and adapted for reuse as MONOVA: Archives of North Vancouver. To celebrate the history of this building, an oral history project was launched to collect and preserve personal recollections of time spent at Lynn Valley School and the restoration process.
The numerous audio clips and descriptions in the exhibit lead the viewer to be curious about the lives of the teacher and the children who started at this shiny new school right by the log pond by the clearing in the forest. What would a day in the life of a teacher or a settler child be like? What chores would they do, how would they get to school, what subjects would they learn?
Curricular Connections for Educators
The possible curricular connections are numerous, but to name but a few:
- Career and community connections (e.g. the first teacher in Lynn Valley).
- Natural resources development in Canada (e.g. Shingletown with a log flume as its central feature).
- Rights, roles and responsibilities for building strong communities (e.g. everyone had jobs to do including students, parents, teachers).
Lessons a teacher might draw from the exhibit could include:
- Students track their activities over a 24-hour period, logging each one. They then brainstorm what the same period might have looked liked for a student of Lynn Valley Elementary. How would the schedule of students from the turn of the 20th century compare to the schedule of a 21st-century student? Listen to a selection of oral histories to hear about the experiences of students who attended the school.
- Listen to a selection of the oral histories (link Recollections – oral histories) of former students of Lynn Valley Elementary, including that of Bob McCormack. Develop a 20th century Lynn Valley school children’s survival guide with categories for avoiding wildlife, doing chores and staying on the good side of the teacher. What other categories could be included?
- Ask students to develop a “compare and contrast” chart to consider the similarities and differences between occupations from 1900 to 2020. What were the differences in the occupation of teaching or logging? How has technology changed and what impacts has this had on the occupational role? What impact did these occupations, teaching and logging have on the community in 1900, 1920 (when a new school accommodated the increased enrolment due to legislated education) and 2021?
- Have students develop their own oral history (or “recollection”) of resiliency. Drawing from the Resiliency portion of the Recollections section of the exhibit, ask students to consider their own resiliency in the face of recent traumas and challenges. How, as discussed in the recollection by Marise Okrulica, could one small act of kindness change their world?
“…I remember a few times, people would run out screaming, because there was a black bear in the forest between here and the park. And you couldn’t go out of the school…” — Bob McCormack, student from 1948 to 1955
There are so many ways of making this history reflected in this exhibit real to contemporary students! I encourage you and your students to explore the exhibit and have some fun with it.
From one history enthusiast to another,
– Chris Andersen, MONOVA Volunteer and Education Activity Tester
Chris Andersen is a teacher of 20 years usually found deep in Lynn Headwaters with her retired service dog, Admiral and her rescue pup, Indie. The next adventure is always just around the corner.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.