Grade Ten: The World Wars

Pre-Visit Activity: Glossary of Terms

Hillary House: Specifically called the Hillary House National Historic Site and Koffler Museum of Medicine, this is a house located at 15372 Yonge Street in Aurora, ON, which has now been turned into a special museum run by the Aurora Historical Society. It was originally built for Dr. Walter Geike and his family and was used both as a home and as a doctor’s office. Four different doctors – Dr. Geike, Dr. Frederick Strange, Dr. Robert William Hillary and Dr. Robert Michael Hillary and their families lived in the house. When the Hillary family lived there, they referred to the building as “The Manor.” Today, it is set up to look how it did when the Hillary family lived here (from 1876 onwards), but also has other exhibits throughout the year in special exhibit rooms.

Artifacts: Objects and items that have been made by people that are often displayed in museums.

World War I: A global war that took place from 1914-1918 and was centralized in Europe. It was fought between the Allied Powers (France, the United Kingdom/British Empire [including Canada], the Russian Empire, and United States, among others) and the Central Powers (the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria). Dr Robert Michael Hillary and his son Stuart Hillary both fought in this war. Stuart Hillary died (age 20) of wounds sustained at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

World War II: A global war that took place from 1939-1945 and took place all across various areas of the world. A vast number of nations took part in this conflict and are generally split into the Allies (Canada, United Kingdom, France, China, the Soviet Union and United States, among many others) and the Axis (Germany, Japan, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, among others). Dr. Norman Hillary (son of Robert Michael Hillary) fought in this war.

Battle of Vimy Ridge: A battle fought in France during World War I where the combatants were from the Canadian corps for the Allied powers (fighting against the German Sixth Army for the Central powers). The battle lasted from April 9 to April 12, 1917 and resulted in a victory for the Canadians/Allied powers. There were a huge number of casualties – 10,602, with 3,598 of those killed, including Stuart Hillary.

Primary Source: An object or document that is original to the time period being studied. For example, a book from 1890 is a primary source for the time period. [Note: If a page is photocopied from this text, the written words are still considered a primary source as they were written at that time period.]

Hypotheses: Often used in Science, but also applicable to the study of History: a proposed explanation or guess that you can make, but have yet to prove. It is something that is usually put forward in order to promote further research, discussion and study to find evidence to support it.

Inference: A conclusion that can be made using evidence and reasoning. In history, inferences can be made from observations made off of primary sources.

Archives: A place where objects and documents of historical significance are stored to keep them safe and preserved. There are various types of archives, such as academic (i.e. at colleges, universities), government (i.e. town/city, province, country) and business (i.e. companies have their own archival documents stored in their own archives).

Activities Overview

Activity #1: Artifact Investigation
Working in small groups, students will be given a collection of documents and an artifact to study. Using only their investigative and observation skills, they must determine the subject of the outreach program. Preferably, teachers should not tell students in advance that the Hillary House educator is coming to do a program on the World Wars, so that they can study the artifacts and surmise this for themselves. They will then look deeper at the sources to obtain information on the individual people involved in the war that they will be studying (the three Hillary family members).

Activity #2: Points of View
After viewing artifacts and hearing about some of the experiences of the Hillary family members in the wars, students will consider how the war may have affected families on a personal level. Continuing to work in their groups, students try to determine all of the possible positive and negative emotions and thoughts someone – such as Edith Hillary, wife of a soldier and mother to two – would feel about her family members being away at war. Students must consider all points of view through discussing the pros and cons of having someone like their husband or son, fighting in the World Wars.

Activity #3: Journal Entry
Using the ideas that they worked on in the previous activity in their groups, students will create their own fictional character with a perspective on the war. Choosing from personalities inspired by the Hillary family members – a soldier, a spouse of a soldier, a sibling of a soldier or parent of a soldier – students create a fictionalized journal entry giving their character’s point of view on the war and war effort. This assignment is meant to work off of inferences and hypotheses and only be an opinion piece, but the classroom teacher can extended the assignment further during class time as a research assignment project [see Suggested Post-Visit Activities].

Suggested Post-Visit Activities

(1) Take a class trip to Hillary House National Historic Site at 15372 Yonge Street (if you have not already) to get a better sense of how the Hillary family lived. The Study and Southeast (Master) Bedroom are of particular significance because they contain further artifacts from the war time periods, including: World War I military swords, medals presented to Robert Michael Hillary and for Stuart Hillary. In the Dispensary, see a fragmented skull retrieved by Norman Hillary from a destroyed medical school or hospital and brought back with him from his overseas station in Italy during World War II.

(2) Encourage students to visit their local library and archives where they can obtain more information on Aurora history, specifically during this time period. Also encourage them to look into other archives, such as: the City of Toronto Archives, Archives Ontario, Library and Archives Canada. At these archives, they find out more detailed information about the war-era time periods and how it affected people in local communities all across Canada. These sources of information can also help with obtaining additional primary sources for research projects.

(3) Expand Activity #3: Journal Entry into a research assignment. Once students have selected their “character” (soldier, parent, sibling or spouse), have them write and submit their opinion journal piece as a first draft. After initial approval, have the students do more research into the life of someone in a position similar to their character to (1) add more accuracy and detail to their journal entry (2) rationalize and give evidence, using primary and secondary sources, as to why someone in this position may feel the way they have portrayed them.

(4) Have students pick a favourite artifact seen during the program with the AHS Educator and do further research on how these were used during wartime and changed over time (e.g. War Bonds, WWI gear: First Aid Kits, flashlights, canteens; Bibles as gifts, etc.).

(5) Pick a topic that was touched on and use this as a starting point for more research, such as:
      a.  Training practices (manuals)
      b.  Equipment and gear
      c.  Homefront activities/initiatives (fundraising parties, war bonds, etc.)
      d.  Affect of wartime casualties on soldiers and families

To see how this program connects to the current Ontario curriculum click here.