Over the last half year I have been working on a third Local History Kit for teachers to use in the classroom. Last spring I worked with our team of SD33 teachers to create lessons around Flooding in Chilliwack. The kit focuses specifically on the floods of 1894 and 1948 which are well represented in our collection.
Flooding has affected many aspects of life in the Fraser Valley. Over the last 150 years since colonization it has resulted in major changes to the landscape around us. Dykes surround many areas of our city and the once Sumas Lake is now drained and pumped into the Fraser River, in part for ongoing flood protection. Learning about the historic flooding in the area helps us to understand the efforts that are made today in flood protection and gain a better understanding of the man-made and natural changes in our landscape.
The new kit has students exploring a variety of aspects of historic flooding in Chilliwack. In Grades 1 and 2 students can explore historic photographs to find out how a community comes together during times of emergencies and what changes after a major flood. In Grade 5 students explore the changes to First Nations communities when they were made to settle permanently on reserves, often in unprotected flood zones. In Grade 6 students can look at the consequences of living on a floodplain and investigate emergency preparedness today.
The primary source reproductions in this kit span a wide variety of media, from official reports from the Fraser Valley Rehabilitation Authority to personal handwritten accounts. One of my favourite documents we uncovered during our research is a handwritten account of the 1894 flood by Rory Knight, who lived in Popkum at the time of the flood. At the end of his account he writes, “There was no such luck as no school for Gertie and I as we had Miss Harris and we went to school every-day,” [AM 0029]. Being able to share personal and local stories like this is what makes these historical events really come alive for students and helps them connect to the bigger ideas they are studying in school.
If you’re interested in exploring more about Flooding in Chilliwack you can check out our online exhibit Flooding Chilliwack: A History of High Water. I also found K. J. Watt’s book High Water: Living with the Fraser Floods an invaluable resource while beginning our research for this kit, the book can be accessed in our reference library at the archives.
The Flooding Chilliwack kit will be available to book in schools in April 2018. Booking can be done online through our shop or by phone at 604-795-5210.