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Canadian Faces of the South African War


To increase students knowledge of Canada's participation in the South African War.


Youth will be expected to:

  • develop their research and presentation skills; and
  • acquire knowledge on turn of the 20th century Canada and the role our country played in the South Africa War.

Target Audience:

This activity is suitable for students in grades seven to twelve (12 to 18 years of age).

Sequence of Activities and Anticipated Time Frame:

[This activity can be modified to fit available class time.]

  • Background Discussion: 10 minutes
  • Building a Biography: 50 minutes
    • Research (25 minutes)
    • Creation (25 minutes)
  • Presentation: 30 minutes

Suggested Class Materials:

Background Discussion: 10 minutes

After distributing copies of Handout - Canada Remembers the South African War historical sheet, enter into a discussion with the class on the following questions:

  • When and where did the South African War take place?
  • Who were the combatants?
  • What were the causes of the war?
  • Why did Canadians become involved in the conflict?

Using a flip-chart or whiteboard, make a list of the student's responses.

Building a Biography Activity: 50 minutes

Divide the class into small groups and distribute a copy of Handout - Canadian Faces of the South African War to each one.

Ask each group to select one of the individuals listed in Handout and conduct research on how their individual contributed to, or was involved in the South African War. As an alternative, if there is a local individual or individuals from the community who served in South Africa that students would like to research they may do so. Students will then use their findings to prepare a biographical presentation on their selected individual and show it to the class.

Research: 25 minutes

Using the internet sites listed in the Suggested Class Materials section, as well as any primary resource documents that may be available in the school library, ask each group to find information about their respective individual. The following points may be used to guide their research.

  • List your individual's name, date and place of birth, occupation prior to the South African War, information about his/her family, date and place of death, etc.;
  • Describe your individual's role during the South African War. Was he/she in the military or a civilian? If in the military, why did your individual volunteer to serve in South Africa? If he/she was a civilian, why did he/she get involved in Canada's participation in the war?
  • What did he/she do in Canada or in South Africa? If he/she was in the military, what regiment did he/she serve with? If he/she was a civilian in Canada, what was his/her occupation? How was he/she involved in the South African War?;
  • Where and when did he/she serve in South Africa? What battles did he/she participate in? Did he/she receive any awards during his/her service?
  • Is your individual known for a specific accomplishment during the South African War? If so, what was it?

When searching the internet students should verify the information they find by using at least two different sources to ensure the contents of their presentation will be as accurate as possible. Some sites have more information than others, so it might be useful to use multiple sites or sources to build their biographical sketch.

Use pictures and images to enhance your biographical sketch. Be sure to make a caption for each picture, identifying what it is and crediting the source or owner of the picture.

Creation: 25 minutes

Using the information gathered by the group, create a short multimedia (visuals and text) biographical presentation about your individual detailing his/her involvement in the South African War.

Presentation: 30 minutes

Have each of the groups give their biographical presentation to the class. Allow time for questions during or following each presentation.

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