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Interpreting Canada's olympic heroes.

An internationally recognized and award-winning facility located at Canada Olympic Park, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame strives to share the stories of our ever-growing list of Honoured Members to inspire Canadians to be the best that they can be in all aspects of their life. Canada's Sports Hall of Fame opened in Calgary, Alberta, in 2011, but began its story many years before.

The original Hall opened in 1955 at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds in Toronto, Ontario, after years of fervent campaigning for an institution to celebrate Canada's greatest sporting achievements and finest athletes. By the 1990s the original Hall was showing its age, with declining attendance signaling that it was time for rejuvenation, and its co-tenant since 1958--the Hockey Hall of Fame--was moving to its current location. After years of ups and downs, and facing possible closure, nine Canadian cities expressed interest in accommodating a new facility, and Calgary emerged with the winning bid.

The cutting-edge Canada's Sports Hall of Fame opened its doors on July 1, 2011. Since then it has welcomed locals, tourists, and student groups to a facility that boasts more than 50 interactive displays, hundreds of unique artefacts, and countless remarkable stories. Newer facilities always experience growth and learning curves, and the education programs at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame are no exception.

As with many interpretive nonformal education institutions, at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame we try to blend multiple levels of engagement for students, and guests in general, through high-tech interactives, hands-on activities, and interpretive storytelling whilst employing a predominantly inquiry-based learning approach for grades K-12. For all the strengths the facility possesses, they also present some unique challenges for educators--not least of which is how does one tell the story of our Honoured Members and the sports that they play without having children actually engaging in those sports?

Naturally, having children playing sports necessitates having a particular facility, a facility that a museum cannot generally accommodate. So how do we educate the public on our Honoured Members without engaging in potentially disruptive (and perhaps destructive) activities? We start by having students engage in a stationary activity that reveals a particular portion of that sport relative to the Honoured Member's story in question.

One of my favorite stories to exemplify this is that of Ned Hanlan, a rower who was one of Canada's most preeminent athletes of the 19th century, and a member of the introductory Class of 1955. We begin by pointing out his training scull mounted on the wall of our Splash Gallery, and ask the students to take a look at its seat. The seat is similar to those seen on any rowboat today in that it slides, but its use was pioneered by Ned Hanlan, which sets him apart. A notorious showman, Hanlan would deliberately keep his races close to heighten the excitement, and pull away at the last minute through the innovation of his sliding seat. What made that innovation so astounding? In the gallery, we ask a volunteer to use our rowing interactive and ask them to try to row while moving the seat and then while keeping it still. Inevitably, it's significantly more difficult to row without the sliding seat. The volunteer discovers that the motion of the slide allows the power of the rower to come from the mighty leg muscles as opposed to the relatively weaker muscles of the upper body employed in the stationary seat. Ned Hanlan used this to his advantage, and would regularly defeat men twice his size to become one of the most-accomplished rowers of all time.

Multimedia elements play a particularly strong role in our programs and we need look no further than the usage of our 11-minute feature film, "Canada's Greatest Sports Moments," that plays in the Riddell Family Theatre. The theatre space provides an ideal environment to orient students and provide an introduction as to what Canada's Sports Hall of Fame is all about, which directly leads into the film to re-engage the students through a different medium. The film showcases everything that Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, and Canada as a whole, stands for: stories of perseverance (such as Silken Laumann's remarkable recovery from injury to win a bronze medal in rowing in 1992), dedication (such as Hermann Smith-Johanssen cross-country skiing until he was 108 years old!), and inspiration (such as Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope). The film also portrays an important element integral to all of our programming at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame: diversity. We strive to not paint a narrow picture of the demographics of our Honoured Members as Canada is such a remarkably diverse country, whether it is through the era of competition, the sport being represented, or in the background of our Honoured Members.

The many interactive displays in the facility inevitably draw student attention, and often students will accidentally trigger interactives or be distracted by those that run automatically. Rather than outright ignoring the show or competing with it, we selectively use these to further our education programs. A particular example of this occurs in our Motion Gallery. As Canada's Sports Hall of Fame's home for all things Track and Field, one video display regularly runs the story of the 1996 men's 4x100 meter relay team, which integrates beautifully with our storytelling program, "Spectacular Sports Moments." The stirring story of the team's victory, including the remarkable sacrifice made by the fifth member of the team (Carlton Chambers) who injured himself in an earlier heat and chose to not run in the final so as to give his team their best shot of winning, allows an examination of curriculum-based elements such as plot, characters, and setting after viewing.

Another tricky element to programming about our Honoured Members is how we choose a particular individual to tie into a particular program's theme. There are currently 605 individuals who have received Canada's highest sporting honour, including the inductees of the Class of 2015. These remarkable individuals and their stories are the heart of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, and serve as the fundamental building blocks of our education programs due to the diverse nature of their tales. We review these stories for value statements that tie seamlessly into a given program's theme, and then select the final candidates ensuring that the appropriate level of diversity is captured. To gather these stories of athletes that call almost every region of the second largest country in the world home, we are interviewing our Honoured Members to capture their stories in perpetuity. These interviews act as invaluable primary sources for the value statements from which our programming grows. As we look toward the future, our interviews with Honoured Members are now conducted in front of green screens to become a part of our newest venture, virtual distance-learning programs. This new education program experience will be launched in select regions of Canada in 2015 with the intended goal of making the programs available across the country, and even around the world, in the near future.

Though Canada's Sports Hall of Fame is entering only its fifth year in its new home, we are continuing to reach as many students as we can, telling the inspirational stories of our Honoured Members. As new and innovative technology becomes available, I'm certain that they will only serve to broaden our scope and diversify our audience. When that happens more innovative techniques will have to be implemented to skirt around new challenges, and I look forward to being a part of it.

Zack Anderson is the manager of education and programs at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. He has previous interpretive experience with the Calgary Zoo and the Government of Alberta
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Title Annotation:interpretive programs at the Canada's Sports Hall of Fame
Author:Anderson, Zack
Publication:Legacy Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 2015
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