Rob Lachance says his 6th grade French Immersion students at Kemptville Public School are helping historians identify the bodies of Canadian soldiers from more than 100 years ago.
Lachance’s students are the only elementary school kids helping with the “Hill 70 Project,” an initiative that 19 Upper Canada District School Board schools are taking part in.
“We’re trying to help forensic anthropologists identify some bodies that were found last spring in France,” Lachance explains.
He says the opportunity came after the bodies were discovered by construction workers in Loos, France, near where the battle of Hill 70 took place.
“The excavation of the area produced a number of bodies that we’ve been able to identify as being Canadian, and that were never properly recovered by our Canadian Forces during the first World War,” Lachance says. “So, every one of these bodies belong to men that are considered missing in action.”
The students have been uploading copies and transcriptions of old historical records to an online database to help anthropologists identify the soldiers.
Lachance says the project has helped the students understand the importance of remembrance, and the sacrifices soldiers make.
“I’ve been [teaching] for 25 years now, and I’ve had awesome classes,” he says. “And this year is no different than the others. It was something that we jumped into, and the kids have been awesome. They’ve done great work.”
Lachance says he hopes to have his next group of students continue his current class’ work on the project once the next school year begins.
He’s also thanking Mason Black and Blake Seward, teachers at Smiths Falls Collegiate Institute, for their help making the project a success.