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Retired Truro teacher’s work forms basis for educational website

Jan Zann is fascinated by stories that buildings tell about the past. The Heritage Trust of NS used her research to create a website on the built history of the province.
Jan Zann is fascinated by stories that buildings tell about the past. The Heritage Trust of NS used her research to create a website on the built history of the province. - Lynn Curwin

TRURO, N.S. - When Jan Zann first arrived in Truro, she was captivated by the streetscapes, with the large old buildings.

Her interest in the past led her to research buildings across the province, and the information she compiled is now part of an educational website called Nova Scotia: Our People and Their Built Heritage.

“After living in Australia, and spending a year in Saskatchewan, I thought the streets, with the elms and lovely old buildings, were beautiful,” she said. “It was so different from what I was used to.”

She and her husband Paul fell in love with an old home, called Doggett House, on Willow Street in 1975, and have been living there since.

As a teacher at Truro Junior High School, she realized students didn’t have a lot of knowledge about architecture in their own community. She began taking them on walking tours.

To help preserve history, she became part of the Truro Heritage Advisory Committee, and the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia.

After 36 years of teaching, Zann retired and got involved in an organization to encourage student participation in heritage fairs. Around 2005, she began putting information together to help students do heritage fair research. This information became her manuscript for Nova Scotia: Our People and Their Built Heritage. A friend of hers, Arthur Carter, supplied many pictures.

The project encourages young people to learn by becoming modern-day explorers, and includes 20 sections covering topics such as What did an Acadian settlement look like? Who are the Scots of New Scotland? How did people of African descent first come to Nova Scotia? It also covers the first explorers, the Mi’kmaq, and why there’s a fort in downtown Halifax. All are accompanied by pictures, and have questions to encourage thought and discussion.

“I’d been after the Heritage Trust about getting children, from an early age, interested in buildings,” she said. “I think you can teach a lot of history through architecture.

“It’s sad to see so many of the buildings have been turned into apartments or torn down.”

The Heritage Trust had Nova Scotia: Our People and Their Built Heritage put online, and it was recently premiered to an audience of social studies teachers from across the province. These teachers are now interested in piloting it with their classes.

Zann said the program is directed toward students in the Grades 4 to 6 streamlined social studies program, and more topics can be added in the future.

“I think it’s a start,” she said. “It’s a new, and more exciting way for kids to discover what’s around them.”

Nova Scotia: Our People and Their Built Heritage can be found online at https://ourbuiltheritage.htns.ca

lynn.curwin@trurodaily.com

Exploring in Doggett House

One of the sections in Nova Scotia: Our People and Their Built Heritage tells a story about a children’s adventure in Jan Zann’s own home.

She writes about eight-year-old Tamara, her daughter, and a friend rummaging through a large wardrobe when they discover a tiny door. When they open the door, they find a doll with a porcelain head, a top hat, and newspapers from the 1800s.

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