Luke Gardiner, Grade 6 Silver Star elementary school student, gives a class presentation about the 1917 Halifax Explosion with help from Herbert (Buck) Rogers, who talked about his family’s experience in the First World War disaster. (Cara Brady/Morning Star)

Student and veteran collaborate for project

Halifax Explosion explained by Second World War veteran and Grade 6 student

  • Mar. 31, 2017 9:30 a.m.

Cara Brady/Morning Star

Luke Gardiner learned a lot from his Heritage Fair project and he shared it with his classmates in his recent presentation.

Gardiner had heard about the Dec. 6, 1917 Halifax Explosion because his father is from Halifax and he did a lot of research, including preparing a board with maps and photos of the event.

The presentation was for his class in Katie Oakes’ Grade 4/5/6 Montessori class at Silver Star.

“This was the biggest explosion in the world until the 1945 atomic bomb at Hiroshima,” he said. “It devastated a two-mile-square area. Two thousand people were killed and 9,000 wounded. Parts of the ships lifted 1,000 feet in the air and the smoke was 12,000 feet high. The ships were coming through a small channel and one of them was on the wrong side.”

The ships involved were the SS Mont-Blanc, a French ship loaded with explosives going from New York to France, and the SS Imo, a Norwegian ship going to New York to pick up relief supplies for the war in Europe.

Gardiner asked Herbert (Buck) Rogers, a friend of his father’s, whose family lived in Halifax at the time to speak about their experiences.

“”My father was the secretary for the harbour master and all the windows of the building blew out and he was cut by glass real bad,” said Rogers, a 96-year-old Second World War veteran. “The family was at home and they had not idea what hit them. My mother was blown down the stairs with a baby in her arms. My brother was blown over a fence into the next yard and my sister was cut all over her head when the window glass broke. There were big fires all over the city after. The whole city was on fire. I heard about it but people didn’t like to talk about it too much.”

Gardiner said he learned something about how people dealt with the tragedy that was not known at the time and is relevant today.

“It seemed that many of the people who went through that had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and had recurring bad dreams but they didn’t know what was happening to them. I read a book about someone who talked to some survivors after and that seemed to help them. So I learned that talking about bad things that happen is one way to help get better after,” he said.

He recommends the book, Revisiting the December 1917 Halifax Explosion, by Janet Kitz and Joan Payzant.

Oakes complimented Gardiner on his presentation and said she is proud of the projects that all the students are doing for the Heritage Fair social studies enquiry project.

“The students are researching some part of Canadian history and making a personal contact with someone who has experience or knowledge about their project. They are very interested in what they are learning,” she said.

Silver Star school principal Tracy Godfrey, who sat in on the presentations, said, “This fits in with our new B.C. curriculum which supports projects based on personalized learning initiated by students.”

Some of the projects the students are working on include the CPR, residential schools, Japanese internment, the Frank Slide, Irish immigration during the potato famine and the fur trade.

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