National award for PBHS students who helped preserve history

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Picture Butte High School media students answer questions for the local media professionals after the announcement of the national award.

Picture Butte – An innovative approach to recording and celebrating history – which showcased video storytelling provided by Picture Butte High School (PBHS) students ­– has been recognized as the most outstanding (English language) history project in Canada.

The Coyote Flats Oral History Project is the winner of the 2015 Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Community Programming. The award was announced Friday, first to students and staff at the Palliser high school, and then later at a press conference at the nearby museum.

The project is a partnership of Coyote Flats Pioneer Village, PBHS, and the Centre for Oral History and Tradition (COHT) at the University of Lethbridge, and aims to preserve history by video-recording interviews with seniors from Picture Butte and area. The videos produced have been of two types: short, story-focused videos produced by PBHS media students, and longer, life-history recordings filmed by project coordinators.

“Being a partner in this award is most gratifying. It was a privilege to be a member of this partnership that captured our community's history and brought our older and younger generations together,” says PBHS Principal Mark Lowe.

Coyote Flats partnered with PBHS to inspire a new generation to be interested in history, and to create opportunities for ongoing mentorship between seniors and youth. Bringing the COHT into the partnership created further opportunities for the students to learn about the study of history, while providing tremendous support and guidance to the project from experts in the field. The COHT also trained project co-ordinators how to conduct life history interviews, and is archiving the entire collection of videos at the University of Lethbridge.

“The Centre for Oral History and Tradition (COHT) was founded in 2013 and one of the main purposes was to support oral history projects in Southern Alberta,” says Dr. Jenna Bailey, Executive Member COHT. “We are delighted to be a part of such an innovative, exciting and successful local history project. It is a celebration of community and proves that oral history is the perfect fit for intergenerational research.”

While the project is ongoing, results to date include five outstanding student videos, 48 life history interview videos, and increased community awareness and support for the preservation of history.

“This project has been incredible,” says Coyote Flats Oral History Project Co-ordinator Kimberly Lyall. “From watching the excitement of seniors and students sharing their stories, to recording poignant memories from earlier times in this area, I have been both humbled and inspired by what we have created. Winning this award brings it over the top.”

The award will be presented by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at Rideau Hall on October 16, 2015.

“To be recognized with such an award after only one year of operating our Career and Technology Studies video class is a huge feather in our cap” says Lowe. “Our first class of students has shown the rest of our school that this is a top-notch program where you can learn professional video editing skills and do great things for our community at the same time.”

The high school was able to offer the media class thanks to a federal grant through the Prairie Tractor and Engine Museum Society, which allowed the purchase of two, high-definition video cameras. New Mac computers for video editing and a massive LG screen were also purchased as part of a school modernization project.

The media program has grown from 15 to 45 students in its second year and Lowe says part of this success can be attributed to that pioneering class that did such a great job in showing future generations how to make high-quality, professional videos.  

Video of the announcement to follow soon.