Learn More about the Great Halifax Explosion

By
Allison Friedman
Storyworks’s February nonfiction feature will have your students on the edge of their seats. It tells the riveting story of two World War I ships that collided in Halifax Harbor in 1917, causing one of the most powerful explosions in history—a devastating blast that ripped through the Canadian towns of Halifax and Dartmouth. After reading about this shocking and little-known disaster, your students will no doubt be eager to learn more. Here are some resources to get them started:
 
 
TO DO: Hold a small-group discussion
This interactive 3D video of the explosion and its aftermath is a fabulous tool to help students—especially visual learners—fully grasp the logistics of the disaster. They’ll love being able to drag around the frame to get a 360-degree view of the scene.
LEARNING TASK: Divide students into groups of 3 or 4 and ask each group to choose at least 5 details they learned in the video that helped them better understand the Storyworks article. Then have them discuss where in the article each detail would best belong.
 
 
TO DO: Write a speech
This 3-minute NPR clip tells the story behind a heartwarming tradition that came about in the wake of the Halifax tragedy: Every December, the province of Nova Scotia sends Boston a large Christmas tree as a thank-you for the city’s speedy and generous support after the explosion.
LEARNING TASK: Invite students to write a speech that Boston’s mayor might give at the city’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, explaining the origins of the tree.
 
 
TO DO: Write a dialogue
Five survivors' stories are read out loud overtop haunting images of Halifax ruins, helping students imagine what they might have seen, heard, and felt during and after the explosion. (To see a list of all the video clips in the series, click on the menu icon in the top lefthand corner of the video player window.) 
Note: The stories are emotionally intense at parts, so we suggest previewing them first to make sure they are appropriate for your students.
LEARNING TASK: Choose one of the survivors and write an imagined dialogue between that person and Noble Driscoll, in which the two compare and contrast their experiences of the disaster.
 
 
TO DO: Write an informational text
Like all the books in National Geographic Kids’ Everything series, this one about World War I is packed with fascinating facts, vivid photos, and colorful maps and infographics—all written and arranged in a kid-friendly, easy-to-understand way.
LEARNING TASK: After students read the book, have them write a short informational text about World War I that could be used as a pairing for the Storyworks article. They should make sure to include details from the book that they believe would best enhance readers’ understanding of the original article.
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