Bringing Canadian History to Life with the Heritage Minutes
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Bringing Canadian History to Life with the Heritage Minutes

Bringing Canadian History to Life with the Heritage Minutes

The Canadian Heritage Minutes are a unique and engaging way to bring the rich history of Canada to life in your homeschooling curriculum. These short, impactful films created by Historica Canada capture significant events, people, and stories that have shaped our country. By integrating Heritage Minutes into your lessons, you can provide your children with a captivating glimpse into Canada’s past, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for its heritage.

I remember watching the original set of minutes during TV commercials as I was a child. They had a great impact on my curiosity about Canadian history. It’s exciting to see what new minutes are released because it continues to encourage kids and adults to learn more about the history and impact of different people, experiences, and places in Canada.

image of a faded out canada flag with screenshots of printable worksheets and a chronological list of Canadian Heritage Minutes videos

What are Canadian Heritage Minutes?

The Heritage Minutes are a collection of short, dramatic narrative videos that focus typically on a person or event throughout Canadian history. The original videos were released in 1990 and are produced even to today. These 60 second clips introduce topics in a way that can’t fully give the whole story and context, but allow us a snippet opportunity to discover enough to want to know more.

The videos tackle some pretty big overarching topics, such as diversity, politics, military history, arts and culture, human rights, Indigenous history, innovation, business, and more.

One of the biggest features of these minutes is how accessible they are to the public either directly on the Historica Canada website or through their YouTube playlist. At the time of this post (June 2024) there are 100 official videos in the series with 4 that have been removed due to inaccuracies, misrepresentation, or other reasons. If you are curious to see the missing ones, you can typically find them on YouTube with a little searching.

Navigating the Heritage Minutes Collection

Both the website and the playlist list all the minutes by the date of their release, with the most recent productions at the top. It makes sense for them to present it this way, as many people just want to see what’s new. On the website, you can also choose to have the videos listed alphabetically, and with some more advanced search options, you can filter results to show results by theme or by time period.

I created a downloadable list of the videos in their chronological order which you can save for free here. *includes the minutes produced up to June 2024.

Using Heritage Minutes in Homeschooling

Much like the National Film Board of Canada, the Heritage Minutes offer an opportunity to “see” history in action – although the content is very concise and limited within the 1 minute time limit. As a homeschool parent, you can use these clips in a variety of ways:

  • Introducing a new history topic or concept. With these short videos, you can whet a student’s curiosity on a new history topic before you dive more deeply into it. I will always remember watching the clip of Nellie McClung shouting “Nice Men Don’t Want the Vote!” in her parody speech presented in the Heritage Minute – it stuck out to me for some reason and lead to me wanting to know more about what this whole thing was about! It can work the same for your children too: An introduction before getting really into the lesson!
  • Alongside your curriculum plans. Let’s say you are learning about residential schools and you watch the Heritage Minute about Chanie Wenjack along with the other resources that you’ve been using. You can use the video to compare, connect, and contrast what you’ve been learning already – is what you are doing in your curriculum work matching the same perspectives as the video or are they different?
  • Conversation starters. Sometimes the best learning comes from just talking through things. These videos can lead to some very interesting discussions and questions from our children – things that couldn’t be completely covered in 60 seconds and require more time and information. For example, the clip about Viola Desmond and racism in the 1940s can easily lead into a discussion about how we treat people today, about the social justice movements, about what life would have been like for people of colour in these times and since, etc. There are lots of things we can talk about and kids are usually full of great, deep questions when they are curious!
  • Exploring the Six Historical Thinking Concepts: Historical significance. Primary Sources. Continuity and Change. Causes and Consequences. Historical Perspectives, and Ethics. Some of these are large concepts and can be difficult to fully grasp, but we can use these videos to get kids thinking as if they are history detectives, by asking open-ended questions such as “Why did Historica Canada decide to pick this person or this event to make a video of?” or “Why do you think this happened?” or encouraging them to look for primary resources about that person or experience so they can examine it for themselves.
  • Combined with reading. Something that historical fiction and the heritage minutes have in common is storytelling – drawing you into the action and helping you see what is happening in real time. That’s why they go well together. Choose some Canadian historical fiction books to match the topic covered in the short video and keep the storytelling going so your kids get engaged and invested by discovering more from someone else’s eyes.
  • Use the resources provided. Many of the videos have additional links listed underneath. Some are educational guides with lessons and activity plans, typically of the bigger overarching theme such as Indigenous or Women’s studies. Others are lessons created by the Canadian Encyclopedia with printables and additional videos. Others are related articles. See what they recommend and if their resources are a good fit for your family.

Canadian Heritage Minutes Printable Worksheets

Try these worksheets to help make connections between what they know and what they learned. Free to download and use. The questions are general enough that they can be used for any of the videos. There are two different levels. One is designed for grades 4+ and the other for grade 8+. You can use whichever one will work best for your child.