How could a high school student ever begin to empathize with a soldier fighting in the First World War? This question drove Adrian French, a teacher in Victoria, BC, to combine historical fiction, poetry, and indigenous art to provide the context and empathy missing from most high school history classes. The resulting project, part of French’s project-based curriculum for students in the Challenge Program for Gifted and Talented Youth at Mount Douglas Secondary School, won him a Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History in 2010.
When French wanted to thank the author who inspired the project, he reached out to Hugo Wong, a recent high school graduate who did the project himself in his junior year. He responded with a book that chronicled the project from its inception to its present form. Cree Star Blanket is a collection of photographs, interviews, and examples of student work, but more importantly, it is a statement on how high school students can thrive on a challenging, impactful, and unique curriculum.