The region’s largest tourist attraction has seen a 63 per cent increase in school visits over 2022.  

Upper Canada Village has seen an over 1,000 student increase this spring as more school boards have resumed field trips. 

According to statistics provided by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, UCV have school trip bookings from local boards like the Upper Canada District School Board and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, along with boards from Kingston and Ottawa. This includes the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board. 

SLPC spokesperson Katie Forester told The Leader that there is renewed interest from out of province schools (Quebec, New York State) and private schools – which also extends to other SLPC properties. 

“We’ve also begun to see increased interest from school groups to rent Parks of the St. Lawrence day-use and campground areas for school outings,” she explained. 

COVID-19 related travel restrictions cut school visits and out-of-province visitors in 2020 and 2021 for the SLPC. Forester said that the ongoing school bus driver shortage and rising fuel prices have also factored against school trips. 

Before the pandemic began, the Village saw a spike in school visits with 2019 being a banner year. 

Another factor for schools deciding on potential field trips is a new focus programming – specifically looking at diversity, equity, and reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

“For most school groups, their takeaway is how much more work daily life was back in the 1860s,” Forester explained. “That being said, we recognize this is all happening in a Village that would have been the product of colonial settlers, so we understand colonization has to be part of the conversation.”

She continued that the SLPC is continuing to incorporate new narratives into exhibits and interpretation at the UCV. 

“We recognize the importance of highlighting the stories of Indigenous people, Black Canadians, women, and other voices that have been minoritized throughout history,” Forester said. “As part of our commitment to preserving the region’s cultural, historical and natural heritage, we are actively expanding our partnerships with Indigenous communities to integrate their histories into programming and experiences offered at our sites.”

While the village and adjoining Battle of Crysler’s Farm Memorial has highlighted Indigenous contributions in the War of 1812. Forester said the village has worked with members of the Akwesasne community to incorporate Indigenous history into the UCV’s Discovery Centre. The role of women in the 1860s has also been updated, highlighting entrepreneurial women through the dressmakers, and women running taverns and hotels like Cook’s Tavern. 

“We are also incorporating more Black history into our site-wide interpretation,” she explained. “Currently, we are developing an exhibit on local Black history, which is anticipated to open to the public during this operating season.”

The new Black history programming was developed by a Black history program development coordinator at the Village, and through community consultation with advisors from local Black communities. 

“Consultation on the new exhibit also involved reaching out directly to those we heard inquiries and/or criticism from previously to help us incorporate the voices authentically,” said Forester. “This work has been underway for two years.”

In updating programming, Forester said that while the village has a responsibility to implement programming, it also has to do so in an appropriate way. 

“Sometimes this means taking time to build relationships and letting our partners contribute at their pace,” she added. 

Recent policy changes at some school boards including the OCDSB have made looking at the context of some venues a priority for those trips. This includes if an attraction promotes colonial views or does not include possible Indigenous or minority view points. A survey of school board policies on field trips, including at the UCDSB and CDSBEO, and Ottawa-area boards (OCDSB and OCSB) have not put specific policies or restrictions on attractions like UCV. 

By Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 07, 2023 at 13:02

This item reprinted with permission from   Morrisburg Leader   Morrisburg, Ontario

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