Series aims to teach students about the history of Calgary’s development

Ever walk through the city and catch yourself wondering how it got to this point?

The Calgary Planning Commission, which is appointed annually by city council to make recommendations on local land-use planning matters, celebrated its centennial anniversary in November and answered that question with a series of educational videos about Calgary’s growth over the past 100 years.

“A Century of Vision” is a video project  developed by the City with the help of former elementary school principal Cathy Cochrane and local film production company Joe Media Group. It aims to teach kids in Grades 2 to 7 about the development of the city, and is in the midst of getting approval from the Calgary Board of Education.

“The intent is to not only provide activities that are engaging to students, but as much a guide for teachers to begin how to use an inquiry approach with their students,” Cochrane said.

Produced by: Pol Nikulin

The videos show a surveyor who tells the history of the planning that went into building Calgary, and each episode explains a different era of growth in the city. Along with the information is a stream of images and videos from Calgary’s archives.

Included in the episodes are Calgary milestones:

• The original boom that began in 1911

• The building of the Glenmore Dam

• The creation of Canada Olympic Park and Olympic Oval for the 1988 Olympics

Ian Cope, principal planner and secretary to the Calgary Planning Commission, was one of the people that had the original idea for the video series. “We started to see that there was some actual value here that could spread the word of the planning commission, the planning itself, but also do some good with students,” he said.

“There was an opportunity here to put something together that would inform, entertain, and educate.”

The six-episode series was designed by Joe Media Group, with scripts being written by playwright Neil Flemming, who saw it as an opportunity to give students an appreciation for the city.

“Our goal was to give kids an appreciation that Calgary didn’t happen on its own,” Flemming said. “The city evolved over time. The ultimate focus was to get kids interested in the buildings that exist around them. Maybe question why they are there and what they came from.”

Principal planner Ian Cope looks at the study guides that accompany the “A Century of Vision” video series, the guides are in the midst of getting approval from the Calgary Board of Education to become teacher resources.
Photo by: Pol Nikulin
Cochrane wanted teachers to adopt the inquisitive approach that Flemming wanted from the students.

“This resource will help teachers move away from that recipe-book kind of teaching, teaching from a textbook,” Cochrane said. “I have always believed that if you raise the bar for kids, then you give them real things to think about, and they come up with some amazing solutions.”

The videos have connections to the social studies, English and science courses, but will be left up to interpretation for teachers. Flemming’s goal was to make the content of the video be interesting to students.

“We didn’t want kids to be whipping out their phones as soon as the lights went down and text each other, so we made it funky,” Flemming said.

The series also has undertones of a deeper appreciation for the city and the amount of work that goes into it.

“When you live somewhere you take things for granted, and we wanted people to observe and see what they do have. I think it has made me more observant of the great city I live in,” Cope said.

pnikulin@cjournal.ca