Elizabeth Vlossak

Associate Professor, History
Faculty of Humanities, Brock University

Elizabeth Vlossak is an Associate Professor of History in Brock’s Faculty of Humanities. In her courses, she looks for ways to incorporate innovative techniques into students’ classroom experience. This includes encouraging students to engage with the Brock campus, St. Catharines and the wider Niagara region by thinking about how local sites are connected to global movements, and how students’ own lives have been shaped by world history.

What is your Canada Games-related course title, code and description?

HIST 3F02: Making History in Niagara

Students in the class research, design and present a proposal for a public history project, using local archives, including Brock Special Collections. Projects may include special exhibits at local museums, historical societies and libraries; historical information plaques; monuments and memorials; brochures and pamphlets; digital and online exhibits; and live performances and other artistic productions.

Describe how you’ve integrated Canada Games related material into your course?

Canada Games-related material has been integrated in the two major research projects students will complete in this course. In the Fall Term, students engaged in work-integrated-learning with the Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) Museum to curate a special exhibit in the museum’s mobile Tiny Museum, which came to Brock in early December. Entitled “Backhands, birdies, boats, and bowls: How sport shaped Niagara-on-the-Lake,” the exhibit will also be on display in August when the town hosts tennis and sailing events at the Canada Summer Games. This term, students are researching local sport-related history in Brock’s Archives and Special Collections and will use the material they find to create a series of interactive exhibits entitled “Canada Games @ Brock History” that will be activated at locations across campus during the Canada Summer Games.

Why do you think Canada Games presents such a good opportunity for students at Brock?

Students of History learn about the past and how events, ideas, individuals, groups and states have shaped the world we live in today. In HIST 3F02, students also explore how the past has been interpreted, presented and consumed by the public in museums, heritage sites, documentaries and popular culture. The Canada Games provides an excellent starting point for Brock students to think historically about sports and major sporting events, how sports shape and are shaped by culture, society and politics, and how these events are remembered and commemorated. Through the creation of their exhibits, students are engaging with sports history and local Niagara history, as well as Canadian and global histories, while thinking critically about which stories have and are being told, which artifacts have been preserved and whose voices are prioritized when we present the past to the public. With “Backhands, birdies, boats, and bowls” and “Canada Games @ Brock History,” students in HIST 3F02 are ‘making history’ by creating legacy projects for Brock University and the NOTL Museum that will be accessible to the public, including the thousands of athletes, coaches, organizers and volunteers who will be in Niagara this August to participate in the Canada Games.

Do you have any suggestions for ways your colleagues can use the Games to enhance teaching and learning opportunities in their courses?

It’s important to not think of the Canada Games as something that can only be studied by faculty working in a field directly related to sports. Just look at all the amazing Games-related work that Brock faculty and students across the University have produced over the past two years — it’s really impressive and inspiring. The Canada Games has offered faculty, including myself, the opportunity to think about and interact with our community in new ways, to reframe important questions within our own academic disciplines and to engage in pedagogical innovation.

Once the Games are finished, how do you plan to continue using this new idea in your course?

I will continue to collaborate with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum on future work-integrated-learning opportunities for students in HIST 3F02. The students really enjoyed working with museum professionals and benefited from the hands-on training in exhibit curation. Students will also continue to conduct research in Brock’s Special Collections and work on public-facing projects that highlight the University’s rich archival legacy. Although these future projects may not necessarily be about sports, I may still encourage students to consider sport-related topics because they can offer so much potential for studying Niagara’s history.

For more information about HIST 3F02, contact Vlossak at Elizabeth.vlossak@brocku.ca