Heritage and History Around Us

Sometimes you read through the badge requirements and find a badge that really “fits” your unit. This is what happened with my Guide unit when we worked on our Heritage badge.

The Guide Heritage badge is generally about learning of your personal ancestry as well as the past of Canada and the community you live in. One of the tasks invites girls to visit an historic building or town hall to learn more about their heritage. As a suburban area of Ottawa, we are mostly surrounded by brand new homes and schools, with a couple of obvious exceptions – including our unit’s meeting location!

The 4th Kanata North Guides meet in the Old Town Hall Kanata. A quick look into area archives taught the girls that the hall was built in 1901 and was used as a meeting place for the local farmers to discuss the issues of the day. These problems included broken fences between properties, escaped or troublesome animals and even truancy! It was amusing to explain to our Guides how skipping school was once discussed in this court-like setting.

We spent one of our unit meetings examining this place we’d been meeting in since September. It’s so easy to overlook the impressive parts of a building when you visit it every week. On the inside, the bright, tall windows and old wooden floors are telltale signs of the building’s age. The washrooms and entranceway were clearly added later when indoor plumbing became the norm. A walk around the outside let us admire the bright red metal roof and real stone outer walls, which gives the building the look of a one-room schoolhouse. However, the archives helped the girls learn that, in fact, the schoolhouse was another older building just down the street.

We encouraged the girls to try to imagine this building as it once was – alone on a stretch of small road where local residents would have had to walk or use horses to reach this meeting place. It’s a far cry from the highway-speed, six lane road that is just outside the doors now. Across the street is a mini-mall with fast food, grocery stores and a pharmacy, but back when our hall was built, it would have been acres of quiet crops filling the landscape.

One of the most impressive parts of the building is an old granite plaque mounted on the wall. I’d never given it much attention before but our research taught us that this building was the place where the village families met to find out which of their children were being sent off to war and which of them, would never return. The names of the latter were inscribed on this plaque (along with the names of those who built the hall). We asked the girls to consider how it must have been to find out this sad news in such a public setting. The Guides read the names one by one and recognized surnames that are now area streets and neighbourhoods. Both the Guiders and Guides found great interest in seeing the correlation.

It’s hard to know if our Guides can fully appreciate how much heritage is wrapped in the building where we meet each week to sing songs, play games, make crafts and learn. But we do know that they certainly have stopped to consider that we meet in a building full of history and heritage. Hopefully, it’s just the start of them appreciating what’s around them even more.

Lana teaches part-time at Algonquin College and owns a business with her husband. She was in Guiding for nine years as a girl and has now been a Guider for five years. She currently runs the NEW 4th Kanata North Guides with her excellent co-Guiders and has been recently appointed as Community Guider for Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. Check out her previous blog post, Friday Night Guiding


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