Hands-On Canadian History: The Halifax Explosion

The Halifax Explosion was the biggest man-made explosion before the atomic bomb, caused when two ships collided in Halifax harbour. One of the ships was filled with ammunition and other explosives, ready to head to Europe for the armies fighting in World War I, the other was late and in a hurry. In the aftermath of the explosion, there were countless people dead, injured, and homeless.

Hands-On Canadian History: The Halifax Explosion

Make a Video of the Halifax Explosion

Short of setting off an explosion of our own, (which would probably have been the boys’ first choice!), I wasn’t quite sure how to do a hands-on activity for this event in history. After much thought with the kids, we decided to make a LEGO Stop-Motion Video.

First, we watched a couple of videos – including the short Heritage Minute that showcased the efforts Vince Coleman, a train dispatcher who ran back to the office to message an incoming train full of passengers to stop them from arriving just as the explosion hit. He sacrificed his own life to save many others. I watched the documentary Just One Big Mess which featured conversations from survivors and photos with voiceovers explaining what had happened. This video was very informative but very graphic, so I opted not to share with my young boys – as it does show dead bodies and talks about seeing a man with his skin peeling off and other injuries. However, it was a great thing for me to be able to relate some of the less gratuitous experiences to my boys so they could understand how horrible it was.

Next, we got to work building a (not very to scale or accurate) model that included buildings, people, and the doomed ships. The stop-motion part kind of got ditched when my son discovered the pause button on the video camera, but he did show that he’d understood what had happened that day.

Here is my son’s final video. (Please forgive a) the mess from a crazy homeschool day, and b) all the extra noise in the background  – we didn’t realize he was filming instead of taking photos!)

See all 31 Days of  Hands-on Canadian History.

My Canadian Time Capsule

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