Bellevue students team with Canadians to study War of 1812

People argue whether the War of 1812 was really a success for anyone.
Annie Zelm
Mar 31, 2012


People argue whether the War of 1812 was really a success for anyone. 

It brought death to many Native Americans, including the Shawnee war chief, Tecumseh.

It certainly helped reaffirm America’s independence from Great Britain and strengthened Canada’s identity as a nation, although not without costs. 

But the war’s longest-lasting achievement, perhaps, is the peaceful relationship between America and Canada. Almost 200 years later, the two nations still share the world’s longest undefended border — more than 5,500 miles long.

To honor this centuries-old relationship, eighth-graders in Bellevue are collaborating with their neighbors to the north on a multimedia project. 

Dubbed the Paths to Peace, the year-long project involves U.S. and Canadian students, as well as the U.S. National Park Service and the War of 1812 historical sites in Canada.

Beginning last year, for at least an hour each week, Bellevue Middle School has transformed its classrooms into stages, fitting rooms, art studios and arsenals in a concerted push to prepare students for a performance this May in Amherstburg, Ontario.

Students from Bellevue, Windsor and Amherstburg are studying the war from different perspectives, using artistic interpretations to share what they’ve learned.

Amherstburg is the site of the historic Fort Malden, which served as the headquarters for the British forces in Upper Canada during the war.

On a recent Tuesday, a group of Bellevue eighth-graders shaped clay tips for arrows and spears, while another group searched for sound effects to define fighting — the wails of the wounded, the thunder of cannons, the sick men aboard Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s ships.

“It’s a huge, huge project,” history teacher Joan Gyurke said. “I think it’s going to be phenomenal to take them to Canada.”

The students first met their Canadian counterparts in October when they visited Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on Put-in-Bay.

Since then, they’ve kept in touch through Facebook, blogs and video chats.

“We just talk about how we can’t wait to see each other in May,” said Shianna Hay, one of the dancers in the performance. “Most of them come over to America all the time just to visit, but I’ve never been to Canada.”

Local artist Jim Andrews, who helped the students paint a backdrop of wilderness for the stage, said it’s important for students to recognize the war’s impact 200 years later.

“If it wasn’t for Perry winning the Battle of Lake Erie, we’d all be speaking Canadian right now,” Andrews said. 

Blanca Stransky, superintendent of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, said it’s been wonderful to see the project take shape.

The national park sponsors educational programs for schools each year, but planners wanted to take it a step further to commemorate the bicentennial of America’s “second war of independence.”

The War of 1812 began June 18, 1812, with President James Madison’s declaration against Great Britain over maritime rights. It ended after the Treaty of Ghent was ratified in February 1815.

To get the project rolling, Stransky obtained a $80,000 federal grant and partnered with Artrain, a Michigan-based nonprofit that provides connections to professional artists throughout the country. The grant will also pay for the Bellevue students’ trip to Canada. 

“Not only are they building appreciation for historical sites, they’re learning appreciation for each other,” Stransky said. “It has just been an absolute win-win for everyone.”

Deb Polich, Artrain’s president and CEO, said it’s natural to teach others through art.

“Art has played a role in the history of humankind from the very, very beginning,” she said. “It’s a way we’ve understood those that came before us, and it’s a fabulous historical tool.

“As the kids have come together, they are learning that every culture has a different perspective on what happened, what the end of the war actually meant.” Polich said.


November India Golf

these students should be putting their time to better use; demonstrating for trayvon for starters

Captain Gutz

The second photo is my favorite, they are  assembling spears for the "path to peace".

BW1's picture

More edu-tainment - lots of fun, not a book in sight, and people wonder why our schools turn out functionally illiterate overgrown adolescents who can't stand not to be constantly entertained unless they're drugged.


I think this would be a good idea, except that they are doing it with a $80,000 federal grant. It is no wonder that the "workers" are getting tired. They pay their taxes so that a lot of lazy people don't have to work. Then they pay for all these "free trips". I think if the students want to go to Canada, let them pay their own way. I am tired of providing free lunchs, free supplies, free trips, etc. It is a shame that everything that is taught these days, comes at a cost. What happened to learning for the sake of learning? If all these free (non-essential) programs were curtailed for a while, maybe our national debt wouldn't be so high.

AJ Oliver


“If it wasn’t for Perry winning the Battle of Lake Erie, we’d all be speaking Canadian right now,”


A.J. the only problem with speaking canadian is we will have to watch and like hockey!! Let alone footbal played on funny fields.

That Andrews guy has to be a liberal


@grandmasgirl: The grant is alot of money, I will give you that. Bellevue was not the only school to receive portion of that fund. It was parceled to various participating schools in NW Ohio, salaries/stipends, community partners, vendors, &c to help bring the project into fruition. Additionally, the schools that received these funds were considered due to their financial situation. (It is all public record if you want to double-check my sources--I'll leave the research to you...see the next set of comments for the rationale.)

@BW1: Edu-tainment, definitely. As for "not a book in sight": it doesn't make for good television. (When is the last time you paid to watch a show about research? Even most people skip any segment about "The Making of the Video" incorporated into many documentaries.) The children researched the material (both in-class and independently)sing primary sources from the War of 1812. That is much more than what many do in the modern world. That's a far cry from being "functionally illiterate." I understand your concern, but this is not a case-in-point.

@Captain Gutz: I found it interesting as well; however, I think there is a point to it: all too often, the path to peace is covered with the blood of the fallen. Just like many other aspects of life, you cannot appreciate one without understanding the other.