Lesson Plan No. 4: Solidarity Awards

The Value of Unions to Workers and Society

The Solidarity Awards are an annual competition sponsored by the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. They provide Grade 12 and post-secondary students with the opportunity to express their ideas on the role that unions have played in Canadian society.

This Lesson Plan is designed to prepare Grade 12 students to enter the competition. It is most likely that the Lesson Plan will be of interest to students in Canadian History 122, but it can be utilized by students in other classes, including, for instance, Law, Politics, and Sociology. Because there are options for creative efforts, the competition will also be of interest to students taking courses in English and Art.

The competition invites students to produce a 1,000-word essay on the theme “The Value of Unions to Workers and Society”, or to create a work of art (such as a painting, song, poem, poster or sculpture) on this theme together with an interpretive essay of 500 words.

The competition has an annual deadline of 15 June, which makes it an assignment that could coincide with the later part of the school year. By this time students in Canadian History 122, for instance, will have covered some events in Canada's labour history, such as the Winnipeg General Strike and the Great Depression. This background will give them some preparation for working on the subject. However, teachers will find that this is an open-ended activity in which students may draw upon sources available at libraries and on websites as well as on personal, family or community experiences.

More details about the competition, including recent winning essays, are available at the following link on our website: www.lhtnb.ca/03/en_nbflawards.cfm. In addition to a cash award of $500, winning entries are published (in both official languages) and receive formal recognition from the New Brunswick Federation of Labour.

This exercise provides students with the opportunity to reflect on what they can learn about labour history and the world of work. Students will be able to use facts and ideas learned from topics covered during the semester. They will also have the opportunity to share information learned from recent news or events in the community and province, from their own experience or that of family members, and from stories in magazines and newspapers and on relevant websites.

The goal of this lesson is for students to apply what they have learned about the place of labour in Canadian society and express this through an essay and, if they wish, a work of art. The use of the Lesson Plan does not require all students to enter the Solidarity Awards competition, although teachers will likely want to encourage a number of submissions.

To begin, the teacher can introduce the NBFL Solidarity Awards and explain to the students that their assignment is to prepare an entry for the competition. This can lead to a discussion on why the competition may exist in the first place. What do students know about unions? Do family members belong to unions? What part do they play in a democratic society? Why is there a need to encourage greater public awareness and understanding of unions today?

After introducing the activity, the class should do some background work on the topic. The teacher may work with the students to come up with a list or time-line of important labour history events that they have already studied, or the class may explore these topics by looking at materials available in standard reference tools (such as The Canadian Encyclopedia, available at www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com). Additional materials are available from the Canadian Labour History feature at the Social Progress Gallery sponsored by the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which can be reached through their site, www.civilization.ca. Of course, information about New Brunswick labour history can be found throughout the present website, which teachers and students are encouraged to explore.

The teacher may also ask the students if they think they have had any personal experiences that they feel might be worth using for their project entry. Students may not feel that they have stories that are worthwhile, so the teacher may have to encourage them to have more confidence that their experiences are relevant. The teacher may also encourage students to approach family members or neighbours or to look at stories in newspapers and magazines or other publications, including websites. A labour-oriented magazine such as Our Times: Canada's Independent Labour Magazine (www.ourtimes.ca) has many features of interest. Links to reports on current events related to labour, both in Canada and around the world, are aggregated on the news website www.labourstart.org.

In preparing to do this assignment, the class may also review the winning entries from previous years. These are available on the lhtnb.ca website in both English and French at www.lhtnb.ca/03/en_nbflawards.cfm. What parts of the province and what high schools are represented in these essays? The class can go through them and come up with reasons why they may have been selected as the winners. What kinds of information do they provide? What do readers learn about unions or about the way of life in New Brunswick from these essays? What kinds of strengths are apparent in the winning essays?

From here the teacher will ask students to start working on an entry of their own. This will require one class to get started, but then students will need several evenings or a weekend to finish a rough draft or to work on the creative effort they have chosen to prepare.

Once a rough version is completed, students may be given the opportunity to work in small groups and edit or comment on each other's work. Once this process is completed, the teacher will collect the drafts and provide comments for the students. Final versions may be completed at home or by booking a computer lab for a period during which students can work on final drafts. Students can either e-mail their completed entries to the teacher or save them to disc.

Essays could be displayed in class or shared with other classes in the school. The teacher can assist students who wish to submit their work for the Solidarity Awards competition. The application forms are available by following the tab for “Education” at the website for the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (www.nbfl-fttnb.ca).

Students will be assessed on their ability and willingness to engage in constructive discussion, to apply information from earlier parts of their course or to locate information in resource materials. Students will also be assessed on their ability to stay on task in class, to complete their rough draft on time, and on the overall quality of the final draft.

These skills relate to specific curriculum outcomes for Canadian History 122. This Lesson Plan will help students achieve the following outcomes identified in the curriculum:

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the contemporary factors that shape the social and cultural fabric of today's Canada.
  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the manner in which industrialization and urbanization transformed Canada.
  3. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and consequences of the Great Depression on Canada following the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
  4. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the effect of globalization on Canada and the Canadian responses.

Credits: Ben Conoley, David Frank.

Provincial Solidarities | Le travail en Acadie | Contested Territory | Women's Work | Labour Landmarks

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