x Multiculturalism and the Building of a Nation

Social Studies - Grade 9

This unit of inquiry is not a recipe book but rather a launchpad to inspire new BIG IDEAS. We encourage you to use and/or modify one, or several of the BIG IDEAS below. Adapt it to the grade/ ability level of your students.


Enduring Understandings

Multiculturalism is a crucial part of our national identity.


Guiding Questions

How can we build cooperation from diversity?


Mind Opening

Choose or devise practices to encourage students to be open to new experiences and ways of thinking in your classroom. For example, the MindUP in-school program.


Discovery and Inspiration:

Launch the Project

Introduce the Theme: Present the Enduring Understanding and Guiding Questions using vocabulary that is appropriate for your grade level.

About Vancouver Biennale: Play a short video.

Create Project Space: Brainstorm ideas to make the project theme visual and visible using bulletin boards, and/or a project corner to share relevant materials and inquiry questions and processes.


Connecting to the Biennale Exhibition

Introduce Sculpture and Public Art: Adapt and select ideas from the Introduction to Sculpture and Public Art Unit Plan for your class and grade level. Involve your students in an inquiry on how art has evolved over time and the unique experience sculptures and/or public art brings.

Explore the Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016 Exhibition: Introduce the exhibition theme: Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver. Ask students in what ways do they relate the exhibition theme to borders in their community.

Introduce Vancouver Biennale ’09 -’11 ExhibitionGrowing Connections (Kaarina Kaikkonen, Finland) and relate the people represented as family of trees in the installation with diversity in a community.

More Background Details: About Artist and Artwork (PDF)


Other Resources

South Park television series: Goobacks (the seventh episode of the eighth season) on the false cry against immigrant populations entering the workforce.

Documentary Films: Occupation 101, Vanishing Link, Deception of Freedom, Living in Two Worlds on issue facing indigenous populations


Learning to Learn:

Art Inquiry

Project image of  Growing Connections and encourage students to explore the art pieces in different angles individually and in groups. This Art Inquiry process enables the students to practice observing, describing, interpreting, and sharing visual information and personal experiences. Use the Art Inquiry Worksheet to guide and capture their ideas and impressions. Customize or create your own Art Inquiry Worksheet as appropriate for your project and class needs.


Shared Insights

• Sharing Art Inquiry Experience: Ask students to share the Art Inquiry Worksheet responses in class.

Artist Themes – Research: Stations In small groups students rotate between information stations detailing the artists’ life and work. Station topics include: (1) education and training; (2) lifetime of artwork; (2) materials and processes; (3) beliefs and values. At each station, students answer questions and complete a task. For example, at the station “life’s work” students might plot Leite’s various installations on a map of the world.

Artist Themes – Family Relatioship & Cooperation: Make reference to Growing Connections and how it depicts family and community relationships in form of trees. Have students review the installation and reflect on how would they relate tree form to family or community relationship. Consider inter-generation differences in communication and values. Relate their own reflection to the guiding question of how can we build cooperation from diversity?


Inquiry Challenges

• Cooperation and teamwork: Ask students to work in small groups on a multiculturalism assignment. In each group, one student is secretly assigned the role of a distractor. After a set period of time, disclose the arrangement and facilitate a discussion on the group experience and work progress. Students may reflect on how they were influenced by the disruptive member and if the group makes any attempt to resolve or manage the issue.

• Crossing paths: Ask students to create a family tree showing where their ancestors came from or draw on a map outlining the routes their predecessors took to travel to Canada. As a class, discuss where and when these paths had crossed. For each country of origin, students can work in groups to to research and present (in a list or pictorially) different elements of the culture, geography, or political situation of that location to the class.

• Reflection: Self-Identity

The students are encouraged to reflect on their identities as Canadians or visitors and how they relate to the culture of their predecessors. This can be done in journals, in small group discussions, or through some visual/artistic creation. How does one’s identity come into play when working with others?

• Partner Research: Immigrant/Indigenous People

Consider using the library and school librarian to help prepare students to research their countries.

Have students get into pairs and choose an unique area in Canada in the 1814-1915 era. Within each group, one student is to investigate the immigrants to the country and the other the indigenous communities. The inquiry can include:

Explore the indigenous and immigrant populations over the years. Create visual representation to communicate the findings.

Investigate issues faced by these populations and document in visually or by text

Select one issue faced by each party and gathering stories or other ‘anecdotal evidence’ that explores this issue. These issues may cover governance, rebellions, confederation, technology, settlement, economy, resource development, and the environment.

Students are asked to continue their reflection on the cause and consequences of different groups coming together to cooperate or to build borders. Students can further the inquiry and relate to current global events.


Student Creations and Taking Action

Zine: Students are invited to contribute one page to a scrapbook (aka: ‘Zine’) in which several stories will be compiled that communicate anecdotes surrounding issues faced by indigenous or immigrant people from the Partner Research inquiry challenge.

Students may choose to follow up on a current event that relate to past issues they have investigated. This may involve writing a letter to the government or someone in leadership position.



• Teacher and students can reflect on their entire learning process by revisiting the Enduring Understanding and relevant Guiding Questions.

• How did the unit of study open inquiry, create cross–curricular learning opportunities and/or apply learning to real life situations? Has this unit of inquiry changed your opinions, values and world view? In what ways, if any, has it helped you grow as a learner?


Ideas for Cross-Curricular Access

• Language Arts: Look up a poem written by aboriginal or immigrant communicating issues faced by their respective communities as point of reference. Ask students to interview someone who identifies themselves as indigenous or as an immigrant and prepare a piece of creative writing that captures the issues covered in the interview.

• Mathematics: Present the latest census information from Statistics Canada to the class. They are asked to interpret the data and suggest if borders are being constructed and are borders being broken down. Students will be asked to support their observations with reasons.

• Science: Students can consider the ethics of space exploration and how humans should behave in space considering the lessons we’ve learnt from past colonialism.


Written by: Aron Rosenberg, 2013 UBC Secondary School Teacher Candidate

Edited by: Jennifer Massoud, Secondary School Teacher

©2013 Vancouver Biennale