Education Programs


“People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”

                                                                                                                                   Edmund Burke

The experience of becoming a responsible, active citizen of the present is significantly enhanced by an awareness and understanding of citizens and events of the past. Through an exploration of how our ancestors made a difference to today, young students come to a realization of their responsibilities as citizens in the present to make a difference to tomorrow.

As outlined in our Education Mission Statement, a visit by your class or community group to the DMA is more than merely an encounter with historical knowledge. It is also – and more importantly – an opportunity to engage in historical thinking! We want your students to learn to ask questions about the history of Dundas and the role the Valley Town played in events that shaped Canada.

Education programs offered by the DMA are designed in careful consultation with Ontario Ministry of Education Curriculum Policy documents. In pursuing expectations outlined in these documents, educational experiences at the DMA complement objectives already being fulfilled by teachers and students in their classrooms.

We look forward to hearing from you, arranging your visit, and welcoming you to your exciting classroom at the Dundas Museum and Archives!

 Arranging An Educational Visit to the DMA

The calendar at the museum is a busy one and fills up quickly. The more advance notice you can give the Museum of your intention to visit the DMA the better. This also allows time for collaboration to ensure that the teacher’s objectives will be fully met as well as arranging PRE-VISIT ACTIVITIES in your classroom prior to your visit.

Once you have a rough idea of when you would like to bring your class to the DMA, the best way to begin making arrangements is through the CONTACT PAGE. Be sure to select Education Programs under recipient.

Here is an overview of programs currently offered  by DMA Education that complement elementary and secondary Ontario Curriculum. For a more detailed description of your class’s visit to the museum as well as references to Ministry Expectations that each unit addresses, click on the link following each program’s description.

Grade 4 to 12: Mystery, Romance and Adventure in the Valley: Historical Fiction in Dundas

William Lyon Mackenzie: fugitive or hero?

William Lyon Mackenzie: fugitive or hero?

It’s a Saturday afternoon in Dundas. A damp and gloomy day in the spring of 1838. You’ve been waiting all week for this chance to hike up the escarpment to your secret hiding place – a cave, deep and dark, in the face of the rock by Sydenham Falls. Your kerosene lantern throws little light, but you know your way once inside. Suddenly, a hand reaches out and grabs you from behind; the other covers your mouth. Then, with course whiskers against your ear, a gruff voice growls, “My name’s Mackenzie. William Lyon Mackenzie.” You’ve heard about this fugitive and his rebellion. Your father has said he admires him and his cause. The hands turn you around and you gaze into steel blue eyes. Will you turn him in to the authorities? Or be an accomplice in his escape?

This exciting new program is for creative writing students from grades 4 to 12. Mystery, Romance and Adventure in the Valley is a fantastic opportunity to create a piece of literary art through an immersion into the rich history of the town of Dundas.

After a pre-visit exploration of the elements of fiction, your class will come to the museum for an inquiry-based lesson on writing a piece of historical fiction which is set in Dundas. It’s an opportunity to merge fictitious characters and plot with some real events, people and artifacts that belong to the rich history of The Valley Town. Perhaps you are an orphan from the American Revolution joining Anne Morden as she journeys from Fort Niagara to become the first settler of the valley. Or one of John Graves Simcoe’s band of Queen’s Rangers building Governor’s Road. Perhaps you’re helping attend the wounded brought to Dundas as British troops retreat from the west in The War of 1812.

An in-depth tour of the galleries, artifacts and archival resources at the DMA will give your students richly diverse provocations for their own story set in historical Dundas. And a bound collection of these stories will be a precious memory for many years. For a more detailed description of this education program: HISTORICAL FICTION IN DUNDAS.

Grade 4 to 12: Museum Immersion: A Classroom Curation Project!

Early Settler Curation prepared by grade 8 students from Providence Christian School

Early Settler Curation prepared by grade 8 students from Providence Christian School

This education program at the Dundas Museum and Archives challenges your class to work as a team of museum curators; your classroom becomes home to exhibits that relate to your history or social studies curriculum. What a great opportunity to bring history to life, and offer other students in your school an exciting and vibrant tour through important events in the past. For your Social Studies and History curriculum, this undertaking will bring your students to an intimate, hands-on relationship with the past.

After a pre-visit activity in your classroom conducted by DMA Director of Education, Professor Picone, your class will come to the museum and discover all that’s involved in the art of curating a museum exhibit. They will have the opportunity to work with several curated exhibits at the museum to derive the important questions and considerations the curator needs to address in preparing an exhibition. Your students will be given a number of related artifacts and some archival documents and have an opportunity to practice curating a small display.

Perhaps one of your classroom exhibitions will be good enough to be displayed at the DMA for the whole town to enjoy!

For a more detailed description of this education program: CLASSROOM CURATION!


Junior/Senior Kindergarten: Games and Toys of Early Settler Children

Corn Husk Doll

Early settler children made dolls from corn husks.

Perhaps the most refreshing experience for your students will be learning that there were no toy stores for the early settlers 200 years ago. Neither was there electricity or batteries. The children of the early settlers had to make their own fun. And they had only natural materials to work with: wood, string, clay and corn husks. Your students will have an opportunity to learn more about early games, and also to try their hand at Cup and Ball, Hoop and Stick, as well as engage in some recess games like Simon Says and Button, Button, Who Has the Button. And to take home with them as a memento of their visit, students will decorate a whirligig!

This module also includes an orientation tour of the Dundas Museum and Archives, acquainting the youngsters with what a museum is and its role in the community. They will discover the difference between an antique and an artifact, and the importance of learning about the stories of people and events of Dundas’ past. For a more detailed description of this education module: EARLY SETTLER GAMES AND TOYS.

Grade 1 Social Studies: Community Helpers Past and Present

Before automobiles and mechanics, people depended on the wheelwright to keep their horse-drawn carts running smoothly.

Before automobiles and mechanics, people depended on the wheelwright to keep their horse-drawn carts running smoothly.

Everyone knows that a farmer harvests his crops. But at one time, not very long ago, one of the essential helpers in every community harvested ice! And without the help of a “leatherhead” a tiny spark could prove disastrous!

This grade 1 Social Studies program invites your students to explore the concept of “community” and some of the important roles and responsibilities that people assume in the communities to make them work in ways that are healthy, happy and safe.

Then, it’s an exciting leap back in time to discover those people who were the community helpers in the Valley Town more than two centuries ago. This includes a tour of The Doctor’s Office where your students can see some of the ways medicine treated sick or injured patients in the past.

And there are lots of old community helper tools to discover, too. For a more detailed description of this education program:   COMMUNITY HELPERS.


Grade 1 Science: Materials, Objects, and Everyday Structures

Materials, Objects and Structures

DMA’s resident scientist, Professor Interrogo, examines a strange, “out-of-this-world” object.

After examining some materials commonly found in the natural world and how creatures use these materials to build various structures, students will then journey to the Iroquois Longhouse to consider how First Nations people used materials found in nature to construct structures and objects. We’ll explore many objects that were part of the everyday life of the early settlers of Dundas, especially early tools that were used to fashion different structures, used in the production of fabric, and implements necessary for agriculture.

The students will find it quite fascinating that our early settlers transformed many natural materials in their everyday life: flax became linen, animal fat became tallow for candles, turtle shells were used for combs. What did the grade 1 student use for a “notebook” 200 years ago? With DMA Scientist and Environmentalist, Professor Interrogo, as their guide, your students will come to understand the dilemma created by human-made materials such as rubber and glass and how we can respect our environment by careful recycling. For a more detailed description of this education module:   MATERIALS, OBJECTS AND STRUCTURES.

Grade 2 Social Studies: Early Settlers and Coote’s Paradise: The Birth of Dundas!

Early Settlers

Why did Anne Morden and other early Dundas settlers find Coote’s Paradise so attractive?

The early history of Dundas is a fascinating one! Your class will have the opportunity to learn about Thomas Coote who discovered Coote’s Paradise, and a brave widow named Anne Morden and her family, forced to flee to Canada after the American Revolution to become Dundas’ first settlers.

Why did Governor John Graves Simcoe build Governor’s Road soon after the arrival of these first settlers?  How did the environment of Coote’s Paradise shape the industry of the early settlers of Dundas? Professor Interrogo will introduce the class to Richard Hatt and his first store in The Valley Town– which is still standing! – and explain just how the early village of Coote’s Paradise came to be known as Dundas. For a more detailed description of this education module: EARLY SETTLERS OF DUNDAS

Grade 3 Social Studies: A Day In the Life of An Early Settler Child

slate and stylus

Early settler children used a slate and stylus as their “notebook.”

Building on your students’ grade 2 exploration of early settler life in Dundas, this education module zooms in to examine what it was like to be in grade 3 – about 8 years old – more than 200 years ago! How would a child’s responsibilities around the house today compare with chores two centuries ago? Were the girls’ chores different from the boys’? Would an 8-year-old have a part-time job after school?

What was going to school like? What would a student today think about having their teacher live with them? Your students will enjoy the opportunity to try some of the daily tasks children would have set about in the early 1800’s. They’ll also learn what students at that time used as “notebooks” and “readers.” Of course, it wasn’t all school and work. This unit also looks at how young people spent their leisure time. For a more detailed description of this education module: EARLY SETTLER CHILDREN.

Grade 4 Social Studies: The First People of the Valley

Iroquois Longhouse

Iroquois Longhouse at Crawford Lake

It is very possible that the first people to come to what is now Dundas arrived more than 10,000 years ago! In considering this early civilization, your students will explore where First Nations people came from, why they left, and what was attractive about settling in the valley that was to become the town of Dundas. Among the various groups that comprised this civilization was a tribe known as Attawandaron, or, as they were called by the French, The Neutrals. It was this First Nations tribe that settled in the lush marshlands of Coote’s Paradise.

This grade 4 Social Studies unit explores life in the longhouse of a Neutral First Nations family.  The DMA invites your students into a model longhouse, and the opportunity to examine an enviable collection of First Nation archaeological artifacts. They will also have the opportunity to make a First Nations craft to take home with them. For a more detailed description of this education module: FIRST PEOPLE.

Grade 4 Science and Technology: The Region of Dundas – Secrets of The Niagara Escarpment!

Niagara Escarpment

A glacier two kilometers thick carved out the valley of Dundas

Can you imagine that a rock you see at the bottom of Webster’s Falls is more than 500 million years old? Before there were even plants or animals on the earth! Can you also imagine, for a moment, that Dundas was once covered in a sheet of ice more than two kilometers thick? One of the most exciting explorations of your visit will be discovering how the Niagara Escarpment was formed.

Another important exploration is the role that the last ice-age played in the formation of The Valley Town, how it carved its way into the Escarpment. Your students will have an opportunity to explore the various kinds of rocks that are found in the area of the Niagara Escarpment and how they were formed. For a more detailed description of this education module: ROCKS AND MINERALS.

Grade 5 Social Studies: The First Nations Meet the First Europeans

Mi'kmaq Wigwam

Mi’kmaq Wigwam in Eastern Canada

Did you know that the name of our country – Canada – was actually a mistake that resulted from a conversation between a European explorer and a First Nations Chief? This social studies module explores what is perhaps the greatest impact one people had on another in all history. The lives of Canada’s First Nations people were dramatically and forever altered by the immigration of explorers from Europe.

After a visit to the Iroquois Longhouse exhibited at the DMA and an appreciation of the First Nations’ pre-contact way of life, this lesson looks at several of the first European explorers and their motivation for sailing west to Canada. What was so lucrative about the cod fish off Newfoundland’s Grand Banks and the Canadian beaver, trapped almost to extinction? And, most importantly, how did this first contact forever alter the First Nations culture? For a more detailed description of this education module: FIRST CONTACT.

Grade 6 Social Studies: The Desjardins Canal – Connecting Dundas to the World

Desjardins Canal

The Desjardins Canal: The Golden Age of Dundas

Take a leap back in time and business is booming in 19th Century Dundas! The new Desjardins Canal allows import of goods from all over to reach the citizens of Dundas, and Dundas’ industry can be shared through export with the rest of the world. Mr. Peter Desjardins himself will introduce your students to a large reconstructed model of the Desjardins Canal in its heyday.

The opening of the canal in August of 1837 was to be the beginning of The Golden Age of Dundas! The Valley Town would become a city – the most important city in the district! Indeed, Dundas would become the capital city of all of Upper Canada. But as lovely as the dream was while it lasted, it was short-lived. Why was the life of the Desjardins Canal so short? What role did the railway – and the horrible tragedy of 1857 – play in its demise? For a more detailed description of this education module: DESJARDINS CANAL.

 NEW FOR 2017!

Grade 7 History: Rebels and Reformers: Dundas and the Rebellions of 1837

Perhaps the last one in existence, this banner, a museum treasure, advocates for responsible government, one of the consequences of the Rebellions of 1837.

Did you know that, for a short time, there was a Republic of Canada? With its own flag and currency? Just a few days after his harrowing escape across the Thorpe Street bridge in Dundas and a dash over the U.S. border, William Lyon Mackenzie and his supporters seized an island on the Canadian side of the Niagara River — Navy Island, just above Niagara Falls — and declared themselves to be the provisional government of the new Republic of Canada. This exciting program explores a singularly tumultuous time in Dundas and in Upper Canada. But what prompted all this drama? What was the nature of political rumblings so severe as to cause reformers in both Upper and Lower Canada to become rebels, take up arms, and try to force a new system of government? The Rebellions of 1837 were short-lived, only a few days. But what was their lasting impact? What was the Durham Report? How did it pave the way not only to Confederation but, indeed, to the Incorporation of the Town of Dundas? Was William Lyon Mackenzie a political failure or a political hero? Employing the museum’s new iPad technology for research and presentation, these are just some of the questions your students will pursue. For a more detailed description of this education module: Rebellions of 1837.

Grade 7 History: Conflicts and Challenges – Dundas 1787 – 1814

Treating wounded in Dundas

The War of 1812: Wounded were treated in Dundas

In one sense, the beginnings of Dundas were rooted in the conflict of The American Revolution. In a similar way, the The War of 1812 was significant in shaping the future of the town known, at that time, as Coote’s Paradise. Indeed, it was due to this conflict that the little village would eventually take the name of “Dundas.” The American Revolution forced United Empire Loyalists like Anne Morden – the first settler of Dundas – to find their way to the head of Lake Ontario and eventually settle in the lush valley.

One of the key figures at this time was John Graves Simcoe, then Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. He saw the potential of a military garrison at Coote’s Paradise and the need for a road west to the Grand River and Lake Erie. But the real impact of the War of 1812 was its impact on Dundas afterwards. Even though it was not directly engaged in battle, the Valley Town paid a high price as a result of this war. For a more detailed description of this education module: DUNDAS AND THE WAR OF 1812.

Grade 8 History: Creating Dundas: 1837 – 1869

Mackenzie's Cave

Mackenzie’s Cave: A Fugitive of The Rebellions of 1837

If there is one human dynamic that threads its way through most of history, it is the quest for independence. Against the backdrop of creating Canada with Confederation in 1867, Creating Dundas: 1837 – 1869 presents the story of a young town yearning to govern itself. The struggle is a long one which began before the turn of the century with Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe’s plans for a military garrison stationed at what was then Coote’s Paradise. Coote’s Paradise was blessed with the inspirational vision and leadership of citizens like Richard Hatt and Peter Desjardins.

The early 1800’s saw many written petitions from these men to incorporate Dundas and elevate it to be the county town, the administrative centre for the newly formed District of Gore. There were many setbacks: the distraction of The War of 1812, the untimely deaths of both Hatt and Desjardins, and the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 lead by Dundas resident and former mayor of York (Toronto), William Lyon Mackenzie. Despite all this, the young community persevered. After more than half a century, the Village of Coote’s Paradise became the Incorporation of the Town of Dundas—population 1,925—on Wednesday, July 28, 1847. For a more detailed description of this education module: CREATING DUNDAS


Grade 11 HNC3CU – Understanding Fashion: Silhouettes in Time: 19th Century Fashion in Dundas

This model is wearing a very fashionable bicycle helmet. Can you find it?

This model is wearing a very fashionable bicycle helmet. Can you find it?


A most engaging education program that explores the world of fashion! Not just what’s strutting the runway today, but a look into what was haute couture almost 200 years ago. When it comes to fashion, the Victorian Era was at once exciting and turbulent. A time of burgeoning fashion technology that brought lasting changes to the social, economic, cultural and political landscapes of the day. Silhouettes in Time: 19th Century Fashion in Dundas – begins in your classroom with a guided exploration of four facets of the world of fashion today: Designers and Trendsetters, Fashion and Health, Fashion Technology, and the world of Fashion Marketing. Upon your arrival at the DMA, your class will explore the same dimensions of the world of fashion in the Victorian Era. Your students will be surprised to discover that, even though more than 150 years have gone by, not a lot has changed in the world of fashion. For a more detailed description of this education module: UNDERSTANDING FASHION


What might be some important questions to ask about the Sydenham Road that lead out of the Valley Town?

What might be some important questions to ask about the Sydenham Road that lead out of the Valley Town?

Professor Picone, Director of Education at the DMA, will implement a lesson in your classroom prior to your visit to prepare your students for inquiry-based activities and their engagement in historical thinking. Click here for more information: PRE-VISIT PROGRAM.








Funding  for the purchase of DMA Education’s iPad technology is provided by ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s Corporate Community Investment Fund. The views and opinions expressed on this website do not necessarily reflect those of ArcelorMittal Dofasco.