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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers: The Last Spike

Type: Assignment
Subjects: History, English Language Arts
Grades: Grades 9-10
Duration: 2 lessons
Purpose: To explore an issue, to provide evidence supporting both sides of an issue
Summary: Students role-play a radio broadcast interviewing both an archivist for and a critic of an exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The topic will be the extent of inclusion of Chinese workers in the exhibit.

Before Exploring

Ask students to recall and identify the reasons why a national railroad was important to Canada's development and to Confederation. Inform students that in 1983, an exhibition was put together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The exhibit received both praise and criticism and was a source of controversy. Ask: Why do you think there might have been controversy?

Outline the Opportunity

Have students watch and listen to the clips titled and "Not welcome anymore" and "Railroad exhibit controversy" in the topic A Tale of Perseverance: Chinese Immigration to Canada on the CBC Digital Archives website.

Working in groups of three, students will find and record evidence to support the idea that the exhibition should have given more attention to the thousands of Chinese migrants who helped build the railway, as well as evidence of the reason why the exhibit lacked this information. Students will use their findings to prepare relevant questions and accurate answers in order to role-play a radio broadcast of 1983, in which the exhibit's archivist and a critic of the exhibit are interviewed.

Assessment Tip
Develop a rubric that assesses the relevancy of the questions and the accuracy of the answers used in the simulated radio broadcast.

Revisit and Reflect

Have groups present their simulated radio broadcasts to the class. As a class, discuss the merits of both sides of the issue.


Using the information from the clips, students can write a letter to the radio station outlining and justifying their personal position on this issue.