To learn history out of a textbook is one thing, but to learn it through stories and shared experiences is another thing entirely.
On October 28, 2019, Branksome Hall held a special ceremony where we planted the Liberation75 Tulips gifted to us by the Government of the Netherlands. The tulips given to Branksome (as well as to more than 1,000 other schools across Canada), commemorate the historical significance of Canada's role in liberating the Netherlands during WWII.
At the end of WWII, the Dutch Royal Family presented Canada with a gift of 100,000 tulips as a way of acknowledging the special relationship between our countries. This year, on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands, this tradition has carried on with the gift of the Liberation75 Tulips, which we were honoured to receive and use as a teaching opportunity for Branksome students.
While all Branksome students will be observing Holocaust Education Week in November, Grades 6 and 9 students, in particular, will be learning about the importance of remembrance in historical contexts. All Grades 6 and 9 students attended the ceremony to learn more about this part of Canada’s involvement in WWII. “In Grade 6, our year-long unit of inquiry focuses on social justice. Using this lens, we study a variety of present contexts including racism, slavery, and most relevant to today’s event, the Holocaust,” said Grade 6 student speaker, Laura, at the planting ceremony.
Grade 6 student Isa, a proud Dutch citizen who is in her second year at Branksome, addressed the crowd in both Dutch and English—a special way to symbolize the bridge between our two cultures and countries. Following Isa, Grades 6 and 9 students (Anya, Surina, Shayla, Charley, Laura, Amyna and Sofia) presented literary passages that represented both Canadian and Dutch perspectives during the war. Sharing these moving stories with their peers was a powerful way, they noted, to experience the past not only with their heads, but also with their hearts.
We were honoured to have in attendance at the ceremony Jorn Leeksma, Deputy Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Alongside Grade 6 and Grade 9 students, Mr. Leeksma planted some of the Liberation75 tulips in the Senior and Middle School Quad—a central and visible location where the entire school community can enjoy the flowers when they bloom each year.
To close the ceremony, Branksome Principal, Karen Jurjevich, noted how history lives not only in the past. “The Liberation75 Tulips are an important reminder of the role each of us plays in fighting injustice, oppression and intolerance in all forms—they help us to remember our past while looking toward a bright future,” she said.
When the tulips bloom next spring, students will be able to enjoy their beauty as well as remember the incredible historical circumstances that led them to be planted on their school’s campus.