AP Students Map Their Family’s Migration History

AP Human Geography

Every family has a migration story. Go back a generation or two or 10, and you’ll see that it is extremely rare for people to stay put in the same place.

Our AP Human Geography students were recently tasked with answering the question, “How did you get to Victoria?” Ms. Danielle Beare asked students to interview their parents and family members to get a better understanding of their families’ journeys.

“Most of the kids in the class didn’t really know their histories. They knew their immediate family – where their parents came from, and maybe their grandparents, but very little after that,” she says. “Even more interesting, though, was finding out the ‘why.'”

Students unearthed stories about migrating for love or to provide their children with a better life. Some learned that their family’s migration was borne out of conflict – escaping from war-torn countries atop trains or leaving a country because interracial marriage wasn’t accepted.

“The stories are incredible. They help personalize what we’re learning in class. When you personalize learning, the connections are so much greater,” Ms. Beare says. “Just by looking at their own stories they learned the entire idea of migration, the effects on settlements, on cultures, on families. And these projects connect to the other units in class: culture, religion, ethnicities, race.”

Students charted their family migration on digital maps using ArcGIS.

“The Story Maps make the learning very visual and easy to follow. Being able to display a family history this way is quite easy to do, and it’s really easy for other people to look at it and see your story,” Ms. Beare says. “It was really great seeing just how much students learned about their families. Some of them struggled at the beginning thinking they didn’t have a story, but even the kids who thought they were local found that there was movement and context to the movement. … It was really neat to see it all on a map. It took some students the entire world map to see their family’s migration.”

Student Reflections

by Aysha Emmerson, Grade 11

It was overwhelming and humbling to realize all the lives lived and decisions made, that have contributed to where and who I am today. If my great great great great grandparents had never decided to leave Ireland, would my grandpa have ever met my grandma? Would I even exist? It’s mind-boggling to think about.

When I first approached this assignment, I was sure there would be nothing to say about my family. Our classroom is rich with diversity, with individuals with ancestry from Polynesia, India, North Korea, South Africa, and more. How could my American-Canadian roots even begin to compare?

I started my research on my dad’s side. With his suggestion, I gathered information from a video memorial, celebrating my grandfather’s life after he died of cancer in 1993. There was a section in it on our ancestors, that detailed the lives my family members lived, dating back to my great great great great grandparents who came from Ireland at the start of the 1845 potato famine. I had no idea I had Irish heritage before then, I re-learned my connection to the renowned explorer David Livingston, discovered that I belong to an organization called “Daughters of the Revolution,” as well as my common ancestry with not so beloved Dick Cheney.

I next had a conversation with my Grandfather on my mother’s side, about my late Grandmother’s heritage as well as his own. He told me stories about the wonder he felt arriving in Canada for the first time, his sister working under London receiving telegraphs during the Second World War and ultimately being the first person to receive word that the war was over, how he and my Grandma met, and about my Grandmother’s part Indigenous Canadian heritage.

I knew most of these stories, although had forgotten about many. It was seeing them all together on the Story Map that really impacted me. To see all the jobs, all the migration, all the love stories, that had to happen in order for me to be in Victoria today, has left me feeling more connected to my family than I ever have been.

by Jamison Schulz-Franco, Grade 12

The Family Lineage Map we recently did in AP Human Geography was a really fun project because I was able to talk to members of my family and hear stories that I never knew related to my family’s history. The project did not feel like homework because I was so engaged in finding the information about my family. I was excited to learned things about my family’s path to Canada that I had never known before; like the fact my great great grandpa had played on the Scottish National Football Team.

Being mainly a visual learner, I found this project to be a very helpful alternative form of learning about migration and how extensive the stories of people’s travels to Canada can really be.

While presenting our projects to our classmates and staff, I found a funny coincidence that SMUS’s Director of Learning Mr. French went to school with my uncle. Such a small world. The story map program gave us a great visual representation of how our families came to Canada. I am glad that I did this project and my map will definitely be something I hold on to for the rest of my life.

Click here to see Jamison’s family lineage map.


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