Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Research projects about the dead bring history and Celtic studies classroom collaboration alive

February 11th, 2016
L-r, students Brian MacLeod, Doug Somerville and Jade Lowe

Who would think that research projects about the dead would bring a classroom so alive? But that’s exactly what happened with a group-based assignment involving students enrolled in History 401: Death and Mourning in Canadian History, and Celtic Studies 352: Folklore of Scotland and Nova Scotia.

This idea, conceived by Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, Department of History, and Dr. Michael Linkletter, Department of Celtic Studies, may well represent a StFX first in cross-class and cross-discipline collaboration and interaction, blending the research skills and creativity of students in history and Celtic studies.
For this project, the students in both courses were organized into teams to prepare and present simulated tours (along with brochures) related to Gaelic deathways and ghost stories in Maritime Canada.  
In a classroom transformed by flickering tea lights and the sounds of ghostly bagpipes, students shared their research findings with each other, in a way that was both educational and entertaining, the faculty members say.
In recounting tales about phantom ships, forerunners and wakes, students demonstrated that these subjects reveal much about the cultural values and traditions of Nova Scotia’s Celtic peoples.   

Drs. Stanley-Blackwell and Linkletter say students were enthusiastic about the assignment which had them thinking quite literally outside the box. 

“Definitely the most fun I've had on a project,” history student Clayton Masikewich said while Celtic Studies student Brian MacLeod added, “We were having so much fun we almost forgot we were working.”  
Drs. Stanley-Blackwell and Linkletter also spoke positively about this student project, which dovetails neatly with the content of their courses and their current research interests.  
They recently returned from Scotland where they co-presented a paper, entitled, “Soul Effigies, Mourning Marys and Green Men:  The Imagery of 19th-century Scottish Headstones in Eastern Nova Scotia,” at the international Death and Identity conference at the University of Edinburgh. Their current research is supported by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
The aforementioned project involved the following students: Olivia Bradley, Heather-Ann Caldwell, Taylor Dechief, Alishya Franklin, Hannah Krebs, Pauline Liengme, Jade Lowe, Abby Lowry, Emily MacDonald, Kaleb MacLellan, Brian MacLeod, Michael MacMillan, Clayton Masikewich, Zach Muttart, Stephanie Robertson, Jane Renwick, Jordy Shute, Doug Somerville, and Lacey White.   

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