Students at Gordon A. Brown Middle School have become the emerging historians of Topham Park.
Last month, the school unveiled its Topham Park History Harvest, featuring a presentation and local memorabilia compiled by students. Local residents were invited to bring in their stories and tangible pieces of history to be shared and documented.
“We invited our community to come reminisce,” says Principal Richard Bradley. The grade 7 class involved will create a poster that is to be hung in the main foyer of the school and will be officially unveiled on May 18th.
The History Harvest is part of the larger Topham Park local history project pioneered by local councillor Janet Davis. Other partners for the project include Heritage Toronto, East York Historical Society, Think Tank Toronto, and the Toronto Arts Council.
Nestled in residential community near St. Clair Avenue East and O’Connor Drive, Topham Park can trace its roots back to 1944, when the government purchased land to house World War I veterans. Streets were given names that reflected the war veteran population such as Merritt Road, named after Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Merritt, Canada’s second Victoria Cross medal winner. The neighbourhood
itself is named after the local park, which in turn was named after Frederick Topham, another Victoria Cross recipient.
Students and current inhabitants of this wartime community have been given the chance to gather information from primary sources.
Davis says the students had already completed a lot of research to identify the distinct characteristics of Topham Park, including the type of housing, the purpose of certain housing, the naming of streets, and who was involved in developing the community.
School principal Richard Bradley said the harvest is a “wonderful opportunity” that is “teaching students how to inquire.”
In addition to the firsthand learning experience for the students, Davis cites this event as “a very good example of community building, with the residents being involved to celebrate its unique heritage.”
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