Experience Parliament: A Powerful Quick-Start Guide to Canadian Politics
We know as teachers that it can be challenging to get all kids excited about political structures or convince them of the importance of understanding the history of Canadian governance. Often, teachers’ creative juices are squeezed dry designing authentic and meaningful experiences to engage students in our country’s democratic processes. The Library of Parliament of Canada and the NFB’s newly created online resource, experienceparliament.ca, doesn’t remove all of these challenges for teachers (or parents, during this time of distance learning). However, its beautiful, intuitive, cross-platform design provides a stimulating, contemporary window into Canadian democracy while helping us maintain the rules of social distancing through its virtual format.
Parliament quickly brings learners into the story of Canadian politics, situating them in a choose-your-own-adventure tour of the important rooms, processes and architecture of Parliament. The walls, decor and artwork come alive for the viewer through beautiful animation, key political voices and guiding questions to help kids see the importance of their voices within our democracy.
Choose Your Political Adventure
We know that providing choice in how our students access learning increases their level of enjoyment. The online Parliament experience honours our kids’ varied learning preferences, allowing them to see Parliament as they would like. Unlike a 1980s 8-bit video game, there is no prescribed path to follow except the one they choose.
Looking for a more linear, guided experience? Follow the various chapters in sequence, entering Parliament through Confederation Hall, moving your way through the House of Commons to the stunning foyer of the Senate, ending the tour contemplating the meaning of the Peace Tower.
Learners seeking a more open learning experience can jump between the rainbow of colours that highlight the different aspects of Parliament. Interested in literature and art? Head right into the Library of Parliament and hear the story of its resilience in surviving a devastating fire. Curious about what the Senate really is? Enter the chamber through the sunset-coloured ribbon, passing by the monarchs of the past and present. Learners choosing a mobile platform get the full online experience, easily toggling between the various guided tours by touching the beautifully coloured ribbons of the menu.
Discovering the Senate
The House of Commons tends to find its way into our students’ experiences through conversations around the dinner table during election season, or after the spectacle of the latest impassioned political debate between Members of Parliament. The Senate, however, seems to take a back seat to the antics of the House. Beyond knowing that Ottawa’s NHL team carries the name Senators, many of us (including our students) don’t really know what the Senate is or does.
Parliament brings the Senate to life as more than just another political forum for debate. As students explore the chapter on the Senate, they will see its value in diversifying opinion and representing voices that may have gone unnoticed in the House.
As our students navigate this part of the experience, parents and teachers can surface important questions such as:
- Why is it essential to consider other viewpoints before making important decisions?
- Whose voices might not always be represented when decisions in Canada are made?
- Why would it be important for Senators to work closely with people in their communities?
- Why is it vital that our Senators come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences?
Knowledge Can Empower Voice
One of my favourite scenes is prompted by the question, “How do you make yourself heard?” This important issue is amplified throughout the scene by animated images of our natural landscapes and communities, and echoes of voices in solidarity with one another. Although the scene doesn’t provide answers to this vital question, it, like many of the other aspects of Parliament, can give kids an entry point into seeing themselves as contributing members to what Canada can and will become.
It goes without saying that knowledge is foundational to our students’ ability to participate in and potentially change the world around them. Parliament pulls back the curtain of our governmental system, initiating the transfer of knowledge to our kids by handing them the virtual keys to the House. This experience has the ability to spark a recognition that the story of Parliament is more than just a setting. It’s an ongoing narrative of our collective history in which the characters need to understand where the story is headed in order to change where it ends up.
Cross the virtual threshold into the democratic process and experience Parliament online at experienceparliament.ca!
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