Día de los Muertos celebrations in Niagara

Brock students and Niagara community members are coming together to celebrate Día de los Muertos this year. Here, third-year history student Nathan Harch (left) and Fonthill resident Duncan McNaughton (right), a participant in Associate Professor of History Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas’ community Spanish class at the Pelham Library, prepares the traditional offerings of salt and sugar for the altar. The community is invited to events in Niagara Falls now until Saturday, Nov. 2. Tickets and details can be found on Eventbrite.

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Brock grad returns to share insights on Classics

By Mackenzie Roe

The Department of Classics welcomed graduate Maureen Carroll (BA ’75) for a special event on Monday, Oct. 28. Carroll met with current undergraduate and graduate students over lunch before giving a talk to department members on the role of fertility cults, votive offerings and women’s roles in early Roman religion. In the photo, she discusses a baby rattle in the shape of a hedgehog from the Department of Classics Cypriote collection with students. This specific artifact dates back to circa 323 BCE. Carroll is currently a professor of Roman Archeology for the Department of Archeology at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. Her visit followed a public lecture she gave at Brock on Sunday, Oct. 27 for the Niagara Peninsula Archaeological Institute of America on infancy and early childhood in Rome.

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Student clubs offer many opportunities to get involved

Today’s post is brought to you by Mackenzie Roe, a third year Interactive Arts and Science student and this semester’s Social Media Intern.

Looking to get involved? Brock University offers many clubs under a vast selection of faculties that encourages students to get involved and make new experiences on campus. Clubs on campus are a great way to show the Brock community your talents and interests while also making new connections and potentially gaining helpful contacts for your future endeavors. 

Colosseum at sunset

There are a lot of great clubs that could be of interest to students within the Faculty of Humanities. One of the many great clubs on campus include BUAS (Brock University Archaeological Society) which was founded in 1989 and is one of the oldest clubs that is still thriving at Brock. The club focuses on providing students historical knowledge and allowing them to partake in archival work, as well as fun monthly movie nights, where classic movies are displayed such as 300 and Hercules. BUAS also hopes to hold events such as wine tastings, a variety of enjoyable fundraisers and even festivals focused on classical plays.

“This year we are seeking opportunities in museum curation, conservation, and archaeological excavation. We are working on getting students involved in some archival work as well as working with artifacts,” says Liz Hoffer, this year’s president.

Liz, who is the President of BUAS, stated that BUAS is extremely fortunate to be a club that is supported by their department and because of this support they can work closely with Brock University Professors and other professionals. 

Liz is enthusiastic about students joining the club because she knows the benefits that students could have if they were to get involved, such as opportunities to improve on their public speaking, networking skills and resume building.

BUAS has two symposiums which are held every year to connect with new students who wish to get involved. The first symposium takes place on Nov. 23. Students are given the opportunity to present an academic paper on a classical topic in front of peers, professors, and other members of the community. 

The second Symposium is held on March 21, where experts in classics are invited to present on a topic of their interest. This year’s theme is “Sports in the Ancient World” and BUAS is expected to have guest speakers from all over North America. 

These symposiums are a great way for Brock University students to have the opportunity to network with professionals and make connections with peers. They are an opportunity “to support students and aid them in building a resume that will make them competitive for graduate school, funding applications and beyond,” explains Liz. 

Organizing the student symposium involves planning the venue and food. Students who wish to present at the symposium must submit an abstract for an academic paper focusing on a topic of classical relevance. The submitted paper then goes through an approval process. Those that are selected will have the opportunity to present their peer reviewed paper and then their participation counts as an academic presentation.

Students who have been selected to present can list the experience on their academic resume. BUAS members organize the academic symposium need to book a venue, organize food, speak with a variety of potential presenters from all over North America as well as take cost and accommodations for the speakers selected into consideration.

Students interested in joining the BUAS are encouraged to email buarchaeologicalsociety@gmail.com or contact their social media platforms listed below. Liz also added “Students are also always welcome to come visit the department of classics”, which can be a way to get involved in the Brock University community. 

Brock University’s campus has many clubs that may be of interest to new or soon to be graduating students. Joining a club and making new connections is never too late! All of these clubs offered at Brock provide many different experiences, engagement with students and learning outcomes and promote future success, therefore it’s up to you to decide what fits your interests and join.

Listed below are all student clubs that might be of interest to students within the Faculty of Humanities;


Brock University Archaeological Society (BUAS):

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brock_society

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brocku_archaeology/

Email: buarchaeologicalsociety@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/buas


Westmarches Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1742828119373436/

Email: brockwestmarches@outlook.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/westmarches


Game Research & Development Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/GameResearch/about/?section=long_desc&tab=page_info

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Brock_GRDC

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brock_grdc/

Email: gamedevelopmentresearch@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/gameresearch


Brock Photography Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhotographyBU

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockPhotoClub


Email: brockphotographyclub@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/brockphotographyclub


Brock Musical Theatre:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brockmusicaltheatre/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockmusicalt

Website: http://www.brockmusicaltheatre.com/

Email: brockmusicaltheatre@hotmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/BMT


Brock Art Collective:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/197378030398322/?ref=bookmarks

Email: brockartcollective@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/brockartcollective


Brock Dance:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockDanceClub

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockdance

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brockdance/

Website: http://brockdance.com/index.html

Email: brockdance5678@gmail.com

Other link(s):https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/brockdance


Brock Improv:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockImprovClub

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockImprov

Email: brockimprov@gmail.com

Other link(s):https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/improv


Creative Writing Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockUniversityCreativeWritingClub/

Email: brockwriters@gmail.com


Brock Philosophy Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/137209639660208/

Other link(s): https://brocku.ca/humanities/philosophy/philosophy-students-club/


Brock English Students’ Association:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockESA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockESA

Email: brocku.esa@gmail.com


Brock University Historical Society:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brockhistoricalsociety/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockHistorical


Website: https://brockubuhs.wordpress.com/news/

Email: brocku.buhs@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://brocku.ca/humanities/history/buhs/


Brock Italian Club (BIC):

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/104751056301433/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockitalclub

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brockitalianclub/

Email: brockitalianclub@gmail.com


Brock French Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brockfrenchclub/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockFrenchClub

Other: https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/frenchclub


Brock German Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isaacbrockgermanclub/


Parlanchín (Spanish Conversation & Cultural Exchange):

Email: parlanchin.brocku@gmail.com


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GAME students getting inside look at future of virtual reality

Fourth-year GAME student Mervin Hocson tries out Stormland, a new virtual reality game launched Wednesday at Oculus Connect 6 in San Jose.

The future of virtual reality (VR) goes well beyond gaming, and Brock students are primed to be a part of it.

“The best way to predict the next generation of VR is to build it,” said Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist at Facebook Reality Labs in his keynote address at Oculus Connect 6, a conference taking place this week in San Jose. “VR is in a good place right now. Realistically, we are still close to the beginning of what is going to be the biggest technological revolution of our time.”

That message was music to the ears of the Brock University GAME program students Adam Henderson, Kyle Jones, Gabor CSeh, Mehran Mansour Feizi, Robbie Jolley and Mervin Hocson, who were in the room as Abrash gave his address Wednesday.

Abrash predicts that VR has as much long-term potential as the personal computer and will become the most creative and collaborative environment that has ever existed.

Fourth-year GAME student Mehran Mansour Feizi (right) shares some of his design work with Tim Salvitti, Senior Community Developer at Insomniac Games, at OC6.

VR already goes far beyond gaming. Companies like Hilton, Nestle, Walmart and Ford are using the technology to provide training, build empathy, tour factories and accelerate vehicle design. Johnson & Johnson Institute is using VR to accelerate and improve surgeon training.

The fourth-year GAME students Henderson, Jones, CSeh, Mansour Feizi, Jolley and Hocson were invited to the important conference by Oculus, the Facebook-owned company that is leading the way in VR technology. The students’ VR design studio Digital Details, launched as part of a course project along with classmates Dylan Doyle, Caldon Bowden and Nick Anger, caught the attention of an Oculus startup program aimed at post-secondary students.

The six fourth-years spent two days at Oculus Connect getting a taste of the future and realizing how ready they are to embrace the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“For any student who’s interested in games, the best thing you can do is be ready to show you know how to make games by actually making them,” said Mike Daly, Lead Designer with Insomniac Games who was at OC6 for the release of Stormland. “For VR games specifically, getting exposure to what’s out there in VR is really useful, and then using something like Unity to make your own prototypes is the quickest and best path to success.”

It was Digital Detail’s VR game Magehem — designed and built by the Brock students — that led them to the conference, where they were able to show off the game to some of the top brands in the VR industry.

“Game development has a huge part that is theory and a huge part that is skill and ultimately you can’t do one without the other,” said Daly. “Lots of different skills are needed throughout the game industry.”

By the end of the first day of the event, the students were already thinking about the flexibility and adaptability of what they were learning in the joint Brock University-Niagara College GAME program.

“One of the things that Brock is really heavy on is teaching us to be ‘tools agnostic,’” says Henderson. “We learn the principles behind designing things, rather than being a taught a software platform. Then the Niagara College side is much more about tool mastery. You begin to see ways to transfer your skills to pretty much anything.” This includes important project management skills that can be applied to other projects.

“We’re learning the very basics of it so when a new system comes out, we have the knowledge already to be able to learn the tools,” said Jones.

The students are excited about the newest advances in VR technology and how things like virtual meetings and designing 3D objects in VR can impact their game design. They’re unanimous that being at the conference has been a beneficial experience.

“Just being here has prepared us to think about what we’re going to make with this technology,” said Mansour Feizi. “We get to be ahead of others who will be working with VR later.”

Kyle Jones, Robbie Jolley, Mervin Hocson, Gábor CSeh, Adam Henderson, Mehran Mansour Feizi at Oculus Connect 6 in San Jose.

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Making the most of seminars

Rick Castle (BA ’16, MA ’18 in Classics) has been both a student and a Teaching Assistant (TA) at Brock. During his three years as a TA, Rick has taught about 180 students, most of them in first year courses, in the Department of Classics seminars. In this post, Rick draws on his experience of seminars from both the student and TA perspectives to offer you insight on how to make the most of your seminar experience.

If you’ve just graduated high school, coming back to university after a break, or attending university as a mature student, you might be unfamiliar with Brock’s lecture and seminar system. You might be nervous about the idea of sitting in lecture or seminar, not knowing what to expect, or what will be expected of you. If that’s the case, then take the next few minutes to learn a little bit about what you can expect from your lecture and seminar experience.

My name is Rick Castle. I was a student at Brock for 8 years. For the 5 years of my undergrad, I was a student who attended seminars and learned from TAs and instructors, and for almost 3 years I was a TA and master’s student in Classics who taught undergraduates. My goal is to make you less anxious and more excited for your first classes in the Humanities, and at the end, I’d like to share 3 helpful tips that I found crucial to making my seminar experiences enjoyable and successful, and hopefully, you will too.

Rick Castle (far right) with fellow grad students at TAs Esther Knegt and Francesca Patten at the 2018 Classics graduate student conference.

Any student coming to university for the first time, or coming back after a long break can have difficulty adjusting to the lecture and seminar format of a typical humanities course. Whereas a high school student is consistently part of a 20-30 person class, a first-year lecture hall may be filled with as many as a few hundred students. Because of this, students may have trouble talking to their professors one-on-one. To remedy this issue, Brock’s Humanities’ lectures are also supplemented by smaller seminars. A seminar is similar to the high school classroom format, where about 20 students discuss the topic presented in that week’s lecture with one TA or Teaching Assistant. Typically, the instructor will cover a big topic during the week’s lecture, and your seminar will meet once a week for an hour to break down that week’s lecture with a conversation guided by the TA. A TA is usually a graduate student, an Master’s or PhD student teaching the material that they were taught during their undergraduate experience. In this case, the TA understands your position as a student because they were in the exact same position years prior.

A TA will be your primary point of contact in any course that includes a seminar component.

While instructors teach the material, TAs are often responsible for marking the work that you submit, but are also responsible for making sure that their students understand the material to the best of their ability. In an average first-year course, the seminar component accounts for about 20% of your final grade, including a participation grade given for how often you are present and the quality of the seminar’s discussion.

Your TA however, will likely also be marking the other components of your grade, like essays and exams. It’s important then, to talk to your TAs! If anything about the course is unclear or troubling to you, such as when an assignment is due, or what’s expected from an assignment, you can talk to your TA for clarification.

TAs are there to further your understanding of the material and to be a tool for you to succeed, so make sure you take advantage of this resource.

Seminars may seem daunting to some, as it usually requires students to speak about material or readings with which they are not entirely familiar and to do so in front of other students. However, it is crucial to understand that a seminar is meant to be a learning environment. Every student is in the same situation of learning this new material and can help each other understand better. The TA as well is in a position to help you and your peers succeed.

If you find participating in seminar difficult for any reason, talk to your TA one-on-one.

Most TAs are flexible when it comes to accommodating student needs, and with the instructor’s permission, can make seminar a more enjoyable, less stressful experience for you. Similarly, TAs understand that the university experience is a transitional one, and that problems can arise outside of academic life. If you find that you are dealing with issues in your life that make it more difficult to focus on schoolwork, let your TA know that you may need an extension or other accommodation. Every TA wants to see their students do well, and with the instructor’s permission, they can work with you to make sure that you don’t sacrifice academic success while dealing with life’s challenges.

TAs even have office hours once a week, which are often located in their department. During this hour, or by appointment, you can meet with your TA to discuss anything course-related. You can ask for clarification on course material, tips for writing essays, how best to go about doing assignments, about the program and department in general and more!

Over 3 years as a TA, I taught about 180 students, most of whom were first years, and from my experience as both a student and TA at Brock, I offer 3 tips to have a successful and fun seminar experience:

  • Show up to every seminar and hand in all your work. Seems like a basic tip, and in some ways it is, but it results in a world of benefits. By attending seminar, you will learn more about the material than a student who doesn’t. This will be so beneficial to you when exam time rolls around, and often, your TA will be able to provide insight into how to prepare for exams and how to write essays – information that instructors does not often provide. Also keep in mind that for every seminar that you do not attend, and assignment that you do not hand in, you throw away free marks that could boost your total grade, and your total average.
  • Get to know your TA. As I mentioned before, TAs are responsible for determining the majority of your grade, so talking to them about coursework and visiting them at office hours for advice can only improve the way in which you approach the material, and thus improve your grade. TAs have years of experience in the class material, and will be able to help you more than your peers and tend to be more available for consultation than the instructor.
  • Have fun. There’s nothing more boring and uninteresting than listening to an instructor drone on and on. Because the seminar class sizes are smaller than lectures, TAs can and should prepare activities to help their students learn. When you have fun in the classroom, even if it’s just by playing a silly game, you tend to retain whatever you learn for longer. Encourage your TAs to do class activities if they don’t already – university might be challenging, but it should never be boring.
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Community gardening and the Second World War

By Goran Irandost
HIST4P50 #BrockHistoricalGardens 

Goran and Kaylin will be providing free tours of their historical gardens on Wednesday, Aug. 28 from 4:15 to 5 pm. Come by and learn more about their plants and gardening process and taste some of the results!

Some of the plots in Brock’s community garden.

A community garden is exactly what its name implies; a piece of land gardened by a group of people. The types of gardens within these pieces of land may vary, but nonetheless, based on some research and my own personal experience, these community gardens typically involve individuals who work with one another to help each other succeed in their harvests. The very idea of a community garden can be dated back to the late eighteenth century in which owners would allocate certain pieces of land to tenants for the purpose of gardening.[1] Similar to the victory gardens that have been discussed throughout the following course, these early community gardens were focused on growing produce to supplement one’s diet.[2] The purpose of many of these gardens was to be self-sufficient; vegetables such as potatoes were of great significance as they were relatively easy to grow and an important part of one’s diet during this period.[3]

Edward Meyer Children’s School victory gardens on First Avenue, New York NY, 1944.

Although community gardens can be traced back to Europe in the eighteenth century, its popularity truly rose during the first and second World Wars. Countries such as Britain and the United States emphasized a need to grow one’s own vegetables to help maintain a healthy diet during the war. A great deal of effort was made to promote efficient gardening techniques and create a large enough supply that would help ease the effects of the rations on certain foods. Additionally, these gardens were linked to the war itself through the use of propaganda campaigns that focused on establishing these victory gardens as patriotic and for the good of the country. The extent of these campaigns were far-reaching and had a tremendous impact on society as millions of gardens were grown during the second World War alone. It is important to note that these governments did not trust their citizens knowledge of proper gardening techniques, and although both the United States and Britain promoted such teachings, the community gardens were another way to nullify these limitations and truly maximize harvests as individuals could help one another maintain the health of their crops.[4]

American Girl Scouts tend a victory garden.

The recent rise in popularity of community gardens can be attributed to a variety of reasons that are fairly different than what had occurred during both the World Wars. The need for an alternate source of food still persists, but according to Rachel Obordo of the Guardian, these community gardens are important in providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that are lacking economically.[5] Additionally, these community gardens also provide opportunities for individuals to socialize and engage in a group activity that rewards hard work with both a good harvest and important life skills.[6] In the age of social media and video games, it is sometimes necessary to re-connect with the more simplistic aspects of life in order to find a new and better perspective on life. These community gardens provide just that and its recent popularity can be understood as simply a way to reconnect with others on a more personal level.

Torosian Park community garden, St. Catharines, ON.

There are several community gardens in both the Niagara and St.Catharines regions. There exists some gardens in Niagara Falls that focus on growing fresh produce to donate to others in times of emergency. These gardens are promoted on the “Project Share” website and are a great way to help feed those in need through their emergency food program (link for website).[7] Unfortunately, I have only had the opportunity to visit one community garden prior to taking the following course. This garden was located in St.Catharines near Ventura Drive and was a community filled with local residents who all grew their own plants as an alternative fresh food source. I have a few cousins that had resided in that area who had a garden on that plot. In my very first observations of this community garden, it was very apparent how much my cousins relied upon one another to maintain the quality of their plants as they consistently watered and nurtured each other crops throughout the summer. They did such things not because they were asked to do so, but because helping one another makes working within a community garden far more enjoyable and much easier.

Having experienced life in a community garden, I cannot say that I have not enjoyed my time thus far. From the beginning of the course to the present day, I have not had a single bad experience working in my garden. My interactions with the other gardeners on the plot have been limited, but the help I have received from my professor and coworkers has been a key part of my gardens success.

I have been unable to tend to my garden as often as I would like throughout the summer due to a busy schedule. On a good week, I have visited the garden between two or three times, but most of the time I have only been able to attend once a week as part of the routine check-up. This has probably impacted the growth of my plants on some level. However, Professor Vlossak has been kind enough to water my plants upon her visits to the garden which has been a great help. She has also provided some natural fertilizer to help with the growth of my tomato plants which had looked slightly unhealthy.

Additionally, some of my coworkers were very helpful in the early stages of planning for my garden. These co-workers all have years of experience in gardening and provided information in regards to which plants were good to grow (the late start to the course had me slightly worried), and what to expect throughout the whole process.

Additionally, I have come to really enjoy conversations regarding gardening in general as it is not an exact science; people utilize many different methods and grow plants in their own unique way. One of the more interesting stories came from a coworker who stated that they played music for their plants on a regular basis. They did not promote this as a useful gardening technique, but simply something they found to be enjoyable and part of their growing process.

With all that has been learned throughout this course, the only thing preventing me from joining a community garden is the lack of time I have had to properly look after my garden. As someone that tries to enjoy new experiences, gardening has been both peaceful and extremely informative and is something that I look forward to continuing in my home in the future.

[1] N, Flavell.  “Urban Allotment Gardens in the Eighteenth Century: The Case of Sheffield.” The Agricultural History Review 51, no. 1 (2003): 96.

[2] Ibd 103-104

[3] Ibd 104

[4] Ginn, Franklin, Ginn. “Dig for Victory! New histories of Wartime Gardening in Britain.Journal of  Historical Geography. 298

[5] Rachel Obordo. “Fresh, Free and Beautiful: The Rise of Urban Gardening”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/07/fresh-free-and-beautiful-the-rise-of-urban-gardening

[6] Ibd

[7]“Community Gardens”. https://www.projectshare.ca/community-gardens


Ginn, Franklin. “Dig for Victory! New histories of Wartime Gardening in Britain. Journal of  Historical Geography

Flavell, N. “Urban Allotment Gardens in the Eighteenth Century: The Case of Sheffield.” The  Agricultural History Review 51, no. 1 (2003): 95-106. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40275844.

Rachel Obordo. “Fresh, Free and Beautiful: The Rise of Urban Gardening”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/07/fresh-free-and-beautiful-the-rise-of-urban-gardening

“Community Gardens”. https://www.projectshare.ca/community-gardens

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Experiencing a community garden

By Kaylin Currie
HIST4P50 #BrockHistoricalGardens

Goran and Kaylin will be providing free tours of their historical gardens on Wednesday, Aug. 28 from 4:15 to 5 pm. Come by and learn more about their plants and gardening process and taste some of the results!

Here is a photo of my garden with some of my neighbours’ gardens in the background

Community gardens are natural spaces within cities and towns that provide space for community members to plant and grow their own produce. They are common in cities around the world as they provide people with the space for gardening they may not have at home, as well as offering a social and creative outlet to the community. In Lesley Acton’s article on Allotment gardens she mentions that they were a major phenomenon in Britain as early as the 1700’s.[1] Acton explains that garden allotments were used by everyone from professionals to laboring poor,[2] showing that practicality was not the only reason people used community gardens, even back then. She continues by explaining that with the growing and expanding city landscapes in industrialization-era Britain, there was an influx of new families and property owners in south England which created the need for clubs and social organizations.[3]

Based on the evidence in this article it is clear that while community garden plots in the past have been used to grow food, there was also a clear social aspect to the gardens that permeated through to the modern community garden. This social aspect is a major draw for people today. With the growing use of technology and the disconnect many people feel from their neighbors and the people around them, community gardens are a great way to meet and interact with people as well as to learn about how our food grows.

One of the main things I like about the community garden is the ability to see what other people are growing and their methods for growing. I also really enjoy simply spending time in my garden making it look nice by weeding and trimming the plants. Spending time in my garden on an almost weekly basis has been very therapeutic for me this summer. I always leave feeling happy and satisfied with my work. Something I have been enjoying about this garden as well as the course overall has been the amount of creative opportunities it offers. While writing papers and doing research has its place in a university education, the ability to turn off the computer and get my hands dirty has been very enjoyable these past few months.

A photo of the echinacea that has bloomed this week.

I typically work in my garden every day or every other day. I like to water often and keep the plants trimmed and weed free. Since I have so many flowers, I need to maintain them by removing the dead flower heads and watering them to ensure they continue to bloom. There are also a lot of fast-growing weeds in the garden that must constantly be cut back and torn out. I might consider spreading mulch around the garden to limit the number of weeds that grow, as also slow their progress.  I typically visit the garden in the evening around dusk to water and weed. I prefer this time rather than the middle of the day because it is much cooler. I also think that watering my garden in the evening is better as the water won’t evaporate from the ground as quickly, allowing the plants to absorb more

I haven’t met any other gardeners yet although I would like to get to know some of them before the season is over. There are so many interesting gardens around mine and I’d love to learn about the plants growing in them and the methods other gardeners have for keeping their plants healthy.

If I have the opportunity next summer, I would love to join a community garden again. I really enjoy having a space to grow plants and flowers as well as learning from others around me. Since I am a student and move around a lot, it’s hard to justify putting the time and effort into making a garden in the backyard of the student home I’m staying in now. Having access to a community garden where I can grow whatever I want and have all the tools available to me is incredibly important to me. I know I will enjoy the rest of this season in the Brock garden and hopefully I will be back next year.


[1] Lesley Acton. “Allotment Gardens: A Reflection of History, Heritage, Community and Self.” Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 2011, 46

[2] ibid

[3] ibid


Acton, Lesley. “Allotment Gardens: A Reflection of History, Heritage, Community and Self.” Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. 2011. 46. doi:10.5334/pia.379.



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Public tours to be held at excavation site of historic Shickluna Shipyard

Instructor Kimberly Monk, Adjunct Professor with Brock’s Department of History, shows student Braeden Corr, left, a digital map of the Shickluna shipyard site, where archaeological excavation began July 18. The public is invited to tour the site and meet the archaeologists Aug. 17 and 18.

Through thick, heavy mud and clay, the search began last week for remnants of lost local maritime history.

Excavation of the 19th century Shickluna Shipyard got underway Thursday, July 18, with Brock University students getting a taste of life on a dig site.

Archaeologist Kimberly Monk, Adjunct Professor with the Department of History, is leading an archaeological field school at the site in downtown St. Catharines for both Brock students and community members.

“We’ve had an exciting first week,” Monk said. “Students have had a week of training in archaeological methods, both in the classroom and the lab, where they’ve learned about the process of archaeology, about historical materials and why they’re important, and how to process and identify artifacts in the lab.”

The wet, heavy clay conditions make for labour intensive work, as the site is excavated by students one shovelful at a time. The soil is manually worked through a screen to catch any small artifact fragments.

Students began excavation in an area believed to have been the site of houses used by the shipyard’s labourers.

“We think this big six-by-three-metre space is likely overlapping on some structural components of a small workers’ village that was up here on the slope and closely associated with the Shickluna Shipyard, likely for its own labourers and skilled workers,” said research assistant Michael Obie, who oversees the excavation crew.

The team will be looking for evidence of structures and the livelihoods of the inhabitants, as well as possible evidence of maritime culture.

“While it’s really mucky up there with clay and mud, that heightens the chances of us finding some interesting things that would otherwise be decomposed, like leather, basketry, textiles and wooden components of structures,” Obie said.

Waterlogged conditions can prevent or delay the decomposition of some organic materials that would otherwise break down quickly.

The excavation process is slow and muddy. Students excavate the area one thin layer of earth at a time. Each shovelful of soil is then manually worked through a screen to sieve out any possible artifact fragments. These are then bagged with an identification number that connects the artifact to a specific location, allowing the team to reconstruct the site and how it was used when they analyze the objects back in the lab.

Health and safety is taken very seriously on site, with crew members wearing long pants to prevent tick bites and steel-toed safety footwear.

“It’s pretty messy up there, which is a hassle for excavation, but we have a good crew,” Obie said.

The team is made up of 10 students taking HIST 3M60 Field School in Local Historical Archaeology as well as several community volunteers.

A ‘first shovel’ ceremony was held at the Shickluna shipyard site Thursday, July 25 with volunteers, students, local dignitaries and representatives from the Indigenous and Maltese communities present. The team began excavating operation area one, thought to be the site of a worker’s dwelling, on July 18.

“When I go to school, when I study, I’m always interested in what I’m learning and how it applies to what I want to do,” said student Colin Mackenzie, who is working on his undergraduate degree in History at Brock.

“I think archaeology is one of those opportunities to better yourself as a student and learn about the process. But in this particular case, it’s a way to give back to the community and help uncover a bit of our past.”

The public is encouraged to follow the excavations on Instagram andFacebook for regular updates and behind-the-scenes photos of the archaeological work. For safety reasons, people are advised to avoid the area while excavation is underway.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance to catch a glimpse of the project in action.

“We are eager to reach the community with our work,” Monk said. “We look forward to inviting the public on site to see first-hand the archaeological work we are doing.”

Brock staff, faculty and students will be able to visit the site Wednesday, Aug. 14, followed by public tours Saturday, Aug. 17 and Sunday, Aug. 18. Further details will be provided on the project’s social media channels.

The project is supported by Brock, McMaster and Trent universities and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It has also received in-kind support from community sponsors Telephone Clinic, Rankin Construction, Andritz Hydro, Modern Corporation, Niagara Storage on Site, Calhoun, and Wood PLC.

Watch our interview with lead archaeologist and course instructor Dr. Kimberly Monk.

This article originally appeared in Brock News.

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Kaylin Currie: Planting a historical garden

By Kaylin Currie
HIST4P50 #BrockHistoricalGardens

For my garden research project, I have decided to grow a medieval monastic garden. It is based on the ones that Christian monks would grow during the medieval period in Europe. Since the monks would have to be self-sustaining, they would have grown a variety of plant species all with their own purpose. Over the course of this project I would like to understand the process and methods used to grow the many plants without the advances of modern science, as well as understanding the religious meaning of gardens and the plants that the monks grew. Many of  my sources showed that the plants the monks would grow had a significant meaning or use for the monastery, such as religious symbolism or medicinal purposesI am also interested in comparing how the medicinal herbs were used during the time period to how they are used now.

Kaylin Currie’s medieval garden.


Throughout my childhood my parents kept gardens and house plants. My dad grew many different types of vegetables, including corn, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, peas and potatoes, and my mom always grew a variety of flowers. We all pitched in as a family to maintain the gardens by weeding and watering together and were rewarded by nice flowers and fresh vegetables all summer and into the fall. My favourite memory was when my sister and I convicted our parents to grow pumpkins. Even though they took over half the yard with vines, we had our own pumpkins in time for Halloween which was a very fun experience. More recently I have been experimenting with growing citrus trees in my student house. It has been a very exciting experience and as of right now I have four lemon seedlings and two clementine seedlings which are all about four inches tall! I’m looking forward to seeing how they will turn out.

When I saw the poster for this project in the Brock History department I was instantly interested. Having the opportunity to grow a garden of my own while learning about history in a practical way was something I could not pass up. I look forward to seeing how my plants grow over the summer and the experience of the community garden at Brock.

 I began my research by reading Garden History by Gordon Campbell.[1] There was a small section on medieval gardens, and it helped to guide my research going forward. It offered hints about some types of plants that were grown and the spiritual meaning that the gardens held for the Christian monks who grew them. The book also offered some secondary sources \which helped me find more information and especially primary sources on the subject. One of the sources I was especially excited about was the Bulwarke of Defence Against all Sicknes by William Bulleins.[2] This source outlines many plant species that were used as medicines and that were thought to promote good health. This helped me select the plants I wanted to grow and showcased the way medieval people understood health and the body.

One of the first challenges I faced was while researching my garden. Due to the time period I chose, the sources available were few and far between. There were some secondary sources discussing archeological digs and some sources describing recreations of the medieval gardens, however finding primary sources about the plant species that were grown and their purpose was sometimes difficult. In the end I was able to find reliable sources for my garden and am satisfied that the plants I have chosen are accurate to the time period. Another challenge I faced was while finding the plants for my garden. After I had selected the types of plants I wanted to grow, I went to multiple nurseries in search of them. I found many of the plants right away, such as the lilies, peppermint and catmint. It took a lot of driving around to find all the plants I needed and thanks to some very helpful people at Niagara Nurseries I was able to find almost all of my plants. I was unable to find the Agrimony and Feverfew, which is unfortunate because I was very excited to grow them, but I replaced those two plants with yarrow (Image 2) and lemon balm and did a little rearranging to make them all fit in the garden. I am still waiting for the wheat and rye seeds to arrive in the mail as I was unable to find them anywhere in the area.


Overall it took me about two and a half days to plant the garden. I spent the first day collecting my resources and building the raised bed. Even though it was hard work and I do not consider myself to be very handy, I am very pleased I was able to put together the raised bed by myself, while also managing to make it look nice too! The following day I got garden soil and compost from the store to put in the garden and mix it with the natural soil from the area. After the soil was thoroughly mixed, I planted all my flowers, herbs, and vegetables in their appropriate areas, which took me until about 10:30pm!

This experience of planting a historical garden has taught me that medieval monastic gardens took a lot of time and constant effort to build and maintain. Building my own raised garden bed was a challenge and a lot of work, even with the modern tools and resources I was able to use. The fact that medieval monks would have been able to plant huge gardens spanning multiple acres which contained a variety of plant species all with their own special care needs is astonishing.

I am very excited about watching my plants grow over the summer. Watching the flowers bloom and fill the garden with colour is something I’m really looking forward to. I planted foxglove and poppies (Image 3) which are two of my favourite flowers in this garden I am also excited to grow and harvest the heirloom carrots as well as the peas and leeks. Finally, the overall experience of growing a historic garden has been a project I have been very excited about and I am enjoying taking care of all my plants.


[1] Campbell, Gordon. Garden History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2019.

[2] William Bulleins. Bulwarke of Defence Against all Sicknes (London; John Kyngstin, 1562).

[1] Bond, James. The Medieval Monastery and Its Landscape. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford University Press, 2018.

[2] Holder, Nick, Ian M. Betts, Jens Röhrkasten, Mark Wycliffe Samuel, and Christian Steer. The Friaries of Medieval London : From Foundation to Dissolution. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion: Volume XLVI. The Boydell Press, 2017.

[3] Rawcliffe, Carole. “‘Detectable Sightes and Fragrant Smelles’: Gardens and Health in Late Medieval and Early Modern England.” Garden History 36, no. 1 (Spring 2008).



Bond, James. The Medieval Monastery and Its Landscape. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford

University Press, 2018. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198744719.013.25.

Campbell, Gordon. Garden History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2019.

Holder, Nick, Ian M. Betts, Jens Röhrkasten, Mark Wycliffe Samuel, and Christian Steer. The

Friaries of Medieval London : From Foundation to Dissolution. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion: Volume XLVI. The Boydell Press, 2017. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.brocku.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat00778a&AN=bu.b3177712&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Rawcliffe, Carole. “‘Detectable Sightes and Fragrant Smelles’: Gardens and Health in Late

Medieval and Early Modern England.” Garden History 36, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 3.

William Bulleins. Bulwarke of Defence Against all Sicknes (London; John Kyngstin, 1562)



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Goran Irandost: Replicating a WW2 Victory garden

By Goran Irandost
Hist4p50 #BrockHistoricalGardens 

This particular photo is one that I personally like as it captures my first experiences with garden, as well as shows the garden itself in its beginning stages.

For my historical garden I am attempting to replicate one of the many so-called ‘Victory Gardens’ that were grown in the northern parts of the United States during the Second World War. The United States encouraged its citizens to plant these gardens as a way to deal with the restrictions placed upon the population as the war continued. More specifically, victory gardens were promoted with the purpose of offsetting the losses felt with the exportation of various fruits and vegetables to American soldiers and its allies fighting abroad.[1] Although these sorts of restrictions were common during war, it must be noted that American soldiers were considered as one of the most well-fed fighting forces during the war.[2] This was primarily due to two main reasons: (1) the United States was not fighting a war on its homefront, and (2) the country actually improved economically while the war occurred.[3] However, despite the lack of any real domestic threat to the American population, the government was still extremely successful in its campaign to promote victory gardens as there existed roughly twenty million gardens throughout the nation during certain points of the war.[4] This ultimately leads to one of the major questions for the following project; were victory gardens crucial to the war effort, or simply a byproduct of the many governmental plans to promote patriotism during the war?

It must be noted that prior to the following project, gardening was not something that I had done and wasn’t something that I felt I would enjoy. The decision to engage in this course came from a lack of options as I needed the credit to finish my degree in history and this was the only viable option for me during the summer. While these circumstances may be dull, I must confess that I have had one of the most enjoyable experiences preparing for the garden. The decision behind choosing to replicate a victory garden was due to a familiarity with the Second World War itself along with an understanding of American society during this period. The research behind the following project was motivated by questions centered around the impact of the Second World War on American society. Victory gardens are an area that I had not explored previously and provides a truly unique perspective that has helped bring about some interesting information that I had not considered when exploring the Second World War.

While the sources I am using for the following project are similar to the ones I’ve used for other major assignments I have had throughout my history degree (scholarly journals, articles, and books), I have also made an extra effort to explore more primary sources along with documentaries as these mediums are not only more engaging (in my opinion), but also more informative in some respects. The information that can be gained through an analysis of propaganda posters is far different than reading a scholarly article discussing the very same subject. This is primarily the reason why an image and youtube video were used to design the garden itself. The information provided by these two sources provided certain guidelines for the design, while also helping understanding the emotional connection between the garden and the war effort.

One of the important topics of the first blog post was the idea of victory gardens as something patriotic and representative of American values. The following image is one that captures these elements of patriotism and demonstrates the emphasis of victory gardens as part of the fight during the war.

One of the biggest problems that I have encountered has been a lack of time available to tend to the garden. The purpose of the victory garden was to replicate the experience of an American citizen during the time of war. The importance of the victory gardens were heavily emphasized by the American government, thus, it is fair to assume that the average person would have cared greatly for their garden and tended to it on a daily basis. As Char Miller highlights, there existed a great deal of effort in the promotion of victory gardens as an important factor during the war.[5] Many groups and institutions created connections between these gardens and American notions of freedom to highlight its significance and increase its popularity among the population.[6] These connections were understandably extremely influential as evident by the sheer number of gardens that had existed. With this in mind, I must make more of an effort moving forward to tend to the garden as a way to simulate the emotional connection Americans felt towards these gardens. What was harvested was considered important and necessary to the war effort; this is a mentality that needs to be adopted further in order to replicate the war-time experience and maximize harvests.

The most important thing that I have learned so far has been in regards to the very nature of gardening itself. The gardening process was far more complicated than I had imagined as each individual plant required its own measurements and planting techniques. Tending to the garden has also been a huge learning experience as what is needed to maximize the harvest (using certain soils, plant foods, etc) must be kept in check in order to stay true to the period that has been chosen. Some shortcuts have been made, but this is an area that will continue to require further research in order to replicate the most realistic experience possible. The installation of fencing around the garden is something that is looked forward to as it will not only protect the plants from external threats, but also allow me to utilize further research to come up with new ways to improve the final product. Additionally, the next step in the research will also be to contextualize the American victory garden in comparison to that of those in Britain. This is an area of research that will expand the scope of discussion and hopefully bring about new ideas that will add to the overall question of the assignment; were victory gardens truly crucial to the United States war effort?


[1] Lizzie Collingham, The Taste of War: World War Two and the Battle for Food (London: Penguin Group. 2012), 417.

[2] Ibd, 298

[3] Ibd

[4] Ibd, 418

[5] Char, Miller. “In the Sweat of our Brow: Citizenship in American Domestic Practice During          WWII—Victory Gardens. The Journal of American Culture 26 (3). 397

[6] Ibd


Collingham, Lizzie. The Taste of War: World War Two and the Battle for Food. London: Penguin Group, 2012.

Miller, Char. “In the Sweat of our Brow: Citizenship in American Domestic Practice During WWII—Victory Gardens. The Journal of American Culture 26 (3): 395-409. doi:10.1111/1542-734X.00100.                                                                                                           http://resolver.scholarsportal.info/resolve/15427331/v26i0003/395_itsoobadpdwg.

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