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Canada and the South African War WebQuest


To give youth an understanding of the South African War and Canada's role in the conflict.


Youth will be expected to:

  • demonstrate a basic knowledge of the causes of the South African War and the stages of the conflict.
  • demonstrate a basic knowledge of the contributions made by Canadians during the South African War and the various roles they played in the conflict.

Target Audience

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

Sequence of Events and Anticipated Time Frame (60 minutes)

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

  • Introductory Class Discussion (5 minutes)
  • 'Exploring the South African War' WebQuest Activity (45 minutes)
  • Class Debriefing (10 minutes)

Class Materials

Background Information

For a country known around the world for its peaceful society, Canada has a rich military heritage. In many ways, our tradition of international military service can be traced back to the South African War of 1899 to 1902. This conflict fought so far from home was the first time large contingents of Canadian soldiers served overseas. Despite the controversy over whether our country should become involved in the struggle between the British and the Boers in South Africa, more than 7,000 Canadians volunteered for the war.

Serving in such a harsh environment would be a great challenge. Approximately 280 Canadians lost their lives in the conflict, with most of the casualties being the result of injury or disease brought on by the difficult conditions. To learn more about the conflict in preparation for doing this activity with your students, explore the Canada Remembers the South African War historical sheet and the Veterans Affairs Canada 'The South African War' Web section.

Introductory Class Discussion (5 minutes)

Take some time to explore students' existing knowledge of the South African War, asking questions like who the combatants were, where the conflict was fought and what conditions were like for the soldiers. You could write down key words as this is done and incorporate them into a thought web. As many students may be unfamiliar with this lesser-known conflict, this would be an opportunity to set the stage for the activity. Introduce the fact that Canadians fought in their first overseas conflict at the dawn of the 20th century and let them know that this learning activity will explain why the South African War arose and the various roles Canadians played in the fighting.

'Exploring the South African War' WebQuest Activity (45 minutes)

In a room with computer and Internet access for the students, distribute the WebQuest Question Sheet. Have students work individually or in small groups to find the correct answers in the Canadian War Museum's Canada & The South African War, 1899-1902 Web feature. This comprehensive on-line resource's left-hand menu allows the exploration of many facets of the war, with information and photographs about everything from causes of the conflict to the weapons the Canadian soldiers used.

There is flexibility in how this activity could be done, depending on the available time. The students could tackle the entire question sheet or youth could complete different sections of the WebQuest, then share what they found with each other at the end of the lesson.

Class Debriefing (10 minutes)

Once the students have completed the 'Exploring the South African War' WebQuest, lead the class in a debriefing exercise with youth sharing what they have learned. Review the questions with the class and get responses from different individuals/groups [Refer to the Teacher WebQuest Answer Sheet for the correct responses]. You can mention any additional information about the South African War that you wish to add at this time, or correct any misconceptions that may have arisen.

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