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Fort George National Historic Site of Canada

Day Programs

Fort George 1812 Role Play


The 1812 Role Play Program is most specifically directed at the Grade 7 British North America section of the 1998 Social Studies 1-6, History and Geography document. The Role Play Program also relates to the Grade 3 curriculum where students come to understand Pioneer Life. Besides these specific applications, our program also crosses into the English and Drama curriculum In particular, English students of the Niagara Region and beyond are reading a book called Jeremy's War by John Ibbittson, which deals with the War of 1812, the Battle of Queenston Heights, Sir Isaac Brock and a young member of the 41st Regiment named Jeremy. For students studying 1812 History, Drama or English, Fort George can bring history and the characters they read about, to life.

The 1812 Role Play Program is an ideal opportunity to implement and evaluate curricular Overall Expectations such as *the development of English settlement in Canada,* strategies used by early settlers to adapt to the land, and A an understanding of the social implications of War on Canadian/American relations at the time of the War of 1812. The program also meets several of the Specific Expectations of the curriculum by allowing students to demonstrate an understanding of life in early English Canada, the impact of the War of 1812 on the development of Canada, an opportunity for the examination of bias, analysis or synthesis of historic information in an oral presentation, role playing format. The program reinforces concepts and skills such as, co-operative learning skills / experience, brainstorming skills, understanding a point of view and role-playing. The group work is also an opportunity for self or group work assessment.

Fort George can provide a tremendous opportunity to really engage students in the War of 1812 and the lives of early settlers in Canada by putting students into the environment and costume of early settlers, soldiers, soldiers' families and officers. The experience will cultivate a greater awareness of the role and importance of the War of 1812 to Canadian/ American relations.

Educational Outcome

This package includes the pre visit materials and suggested preparations that a teacher should go through with the class. There is certainly greater scope for the development of different scenarios that deal with other themes than are outlined here. Specifically students will learn about social history, the conditions and difficulties of living in a remote posting in early Upper Canada, and some specific Fort George/1812 history. The history is presented by knowledgeable staff and the students= personal interaction with artifacts, costuming, the environment of the fort and the role-play scenario itself.

The 1812 Role Play Program is an opportunity for your students to recreate history in a unique historic environment while meeting several of the expectations of the 1998 Social Studies and History curriculum.*

The morning begins with an orientation video, which is followed by a social history site tour that discusses the life of officers, soldiers and their families. The site tour focuses on the quality of life and material culture that differentiated upper and lower classes. The tour is followed by lunch, and then the students are broken into groups to rehearse and ultimately perform their role-plays. The specific program schedule is as follows:

1812 Role Play Program

10:00-10:30 Arrival, payment and orientation video
10:30-10:45 Students are taken to the barracks and put down their lunches and bags.
10:45 - 11:45 Social history -focused site tour and a musket firing.
11:45-12:30 Lunch in the Barracks - lunch is not provided please bring your own.
12:30-12:45 Warm up exercises and breaking into groups
12:45 - 1:25 Rehearsal in groups with rotating rehearsal in the stage area
1:25 -2:00 Performance of role play for the other groups.
  • 1812 Role Play runs from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm
  • Lunch is not provided please bring your own. We do provide a heated indoor location to have lunch.
  • Maximum 35 students for this programme
  • We offer one complementary for every 10 students/youth

For information or bookings call (905) 468 - 6614.

For students who are immersed in the history of Fort George, the 1812 Role Play Program offers the opportunity for emotional engagement with history, the ability to confront and experience moral issues from the 1812 period and understand and empathize with the social experience of the early inhabitants of Upper Canada. Although your students differ greatly from the original occupants of the Fort, many of the concerns of the families and soldiers that lived at Fort George have current applications. Applying the knowledge they have gained through the site tour of the Fort, students {aided by costumes reproduction artifacts and the Fort environment} can creatively express their understanding of life in 1812.

Included in this package are six scenarios that are based on historic events and experiences of early Niagara. The first scenario Shipping Out, deals with soldiers being sent to Upper Canada and the hard choices the officers and men had to make in terms of breaking up families or bringing them along. Students must confront the idea of having their families broken apart, being at the mercy of the bureaucracy of the British Army and making (as Officers) the hard choices. The second scenario deals with the idea of Mutiny, revolt against officers who were severe, in an isolated outpost in Upper Canada (As happened at Fort George in 1803.) The Role-play asks students to engage in the interplay of hard conditions and revolt as well as the consequences of these choices. The third Role Play entitled Deserter deals with the ideas of theft within a community (the Barracks), of social justice and the consequences of abandoning a life contract with the army. Crime and Punishment asks students to come to grips with the unfairness of harsh duty, unreasonable conditions and the severity of punishment for crimes committed. Students must act as both judges and the accused. Upcoming Battle asks students to put themselves in the position of soldiers in a world where news was passed by word of mouth and rumour abounded. This scenario is based on the burning of the provincial capital at York (Toronto), which included the explosion of the powder magazine, which was audible (and likely visible) in Niagara. The American army that captured and burned York would come to Fort Niagara and assault Fort George one month later. Burning of Niagara puts students in the position of civilians who were burned out of their homes by the retreating American force, confronting the returning British soldiers who were supposed to be defending those homes- soldiers who had endured seven months sleeping out of doors and scrounging for food.

The 1812 Role Play Program is an opportunity to evaluate the acquired knowledge, role-playing, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of historic ideas (contradictory viewpoints of Settlers and Soldiers as in A Burning of Niagara or class distinction conflicts in Mutiny while your students are performing in a fun environment. Unlike many classrooms, Fort George provides an ideal environment for students to role-play in. We encourage teachers to bring their own video cameras where possible for a record of the trip that could be shown to another or next year's class, as a media project or even just for ease of evaluation.

The 1812 Role Play Program that follows may be used as a concentrated evaluative experience or just a fun interaction. You may choose to make your own scenarios or to deal with issues and themes related to your specific class. There is a fair amount of flexibility in all of this. The scenario sheets break down as follows.

1. The premise of the scenario is set out in bold type at the top of the page. You may wish to use only that portion of the role-play giving students some costuming and a little brainstorming/ preparation time.

2. Likely/possible characters: There is a list of likely participants which comprises the minimum required number of students for the scenario, with 'possible' roles to incorporate into the role-play. Included with this package are some of the names of people that occupied Fort George in 1811, and a breakdown of occupations previous to military service, to help create different identities or characters for the role-play.

3. Possible scenario: If you recognize that your students might need more structure to help make this a more effective learning experience, you may wish to use the possible scenario' sequence to structure the role play, you may wish to make simple notes for yourself to help guide the flow of the role play, or you may wish to read the scenario aloud to the group. Once again it is the teacher's discretion as to how to use this material.

4. Possible discussion questions: Role plays often generate discussion all on their own, but some questions have been written down to facilitate conversation if none naturally ensues. There may be specific questions related to your studies that you may wish your students to address. This section is designed to help students express their opinions on the topics while allowing time for groups to reset the stage area and exchange costumes, adjust props and generally set up between Role-plays. You may also choose to discuss these questions in advance of the role-play to generate more critical thought about the role-play. You may wish to do a critique of the role-play as well.

After the program you may wish to have the groups assess their own performance, or react to the experience with a post-visit, creative writing. Use as little or as much as you like, and if you have questions, suggestions or advice about the 1812 Role Play Program or any other program, drop them off during your visit or write us a letter or call us. We'd appreciate any feedback from your experiences with our programs.

To enhance the experience at Fort George we suggest a few of the following ideas:

Break your students into groups and distribute the role-plays prior to coming to the Fort. The more preparation the students have done, the better the finished product will be. You may assign students to create a plot (introduction, rising action, climax, denouement) based on the scenarios that follow, or perhaps have them create a biography of their character for the role-play. Students could also create playbills. You may choose to do all the scenarios in small groups (minimum 7/group) or just a couple scenarios in larger groups. On the day that you come to the fort, encourage students to wear white or grey pants and black shoes (neutral colours as much as possible). A black turtleneck is very effective for those playing soldiers or officers. Ideally there should be no fewer than seven participants for any scenario, and for those who do not wish to perform, each group could use a set designer/arranger.