Canadian Civil Rights icon Viola Desmond

This learning block represents one week’s work. Aim to watch at least one video and choose at least one activity or project to complete.

There are two videos to choose from about Viola Desmond. The first is suitable for younger kids, and the second will appear to older students. Watch one or both!

Viola Desmond Heritage Minute

Choose an activity

Make a Poster

The video above tells Viola Desmond’s story using a fun music video!

The song says, “She sat down to stand up.” What do you think this means? How did Viola Desmond sitting down in the movie theatre become her way of standing up for her rights?

You are going to make a Viola Desmond poster to hang in your room!

You will need:
– poster paper, cardboard, or whatever you have on hand
– scissors
– glue
– a printed portrait of Viola Desmond (click here for Google image search)
– markers or paint

Step One: Print and cut out your photo of Viola Desmond. Try to print it pretty big so that it will be clearly visible on your poster.

Step Two: Paste the photo on your poster board, near the middle.

Step Three: Write: “VIOLA DESMOND” at the top of the poster. Write the words “SHE SAT DOWN TO STAND UP” across the bottom of the poster. You can use markers or paint for this. but markers will be easier.

Step Four: Add any other colouring, words or decorations you like to make your poster look great!

Don’t forget to take a photo for your portfolio!

Learn About Racism in Nova Scotia

NOTE: These videos are intended for older kids. If hearing about experiences of racism is distressing to you, make sure you check in with a trusted adult to talk through your feelings.

Nova Scotia has a terrible history of anti-Black racism which began during slavery and continues today. The film and videos above explores the experience of racism in Nova Scotia through the eyes of Black Nova Scotians. They also describe how people are working for change.

How did watching these videos make you feel?
Did you learn something new?
What surprised you?

If you are interested in learning more about experiences of racism in Nova Scotia, the film Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia shows the perspectives of Black youth in their highschool. This film has some mature content. Check with your grownup before watching.

Explore Viola’s $10 Bank Note

In 2018, Viola Desmond’s story finally became widely known when her portrait was chosen for the new $10 bill! In fact, she is the FIRST woman aside from royalty to EVER be featured on a Canadian bank note! Have you seen Viola Desmond on a bill in real life? The next time you visit a bank, you may want to ask for a $10 bill featuring Viola Demond!

Visit The Bank of Canada Museum’s page to explore the $10 bill.

What do you notice about the bank note’s design?
Which of the images do you find most interesting?
Is there anything you would change if you could?

Design your Own Bank Note

Now that you have learned about Viola Desmond’s $10 bill, imagine that YOU are designing the new $5 bill! You will need to choose an important Canadian to feature on the bill. 

Step 1: Grab a sheet of paper and brainstorm famous or important people whom you think would be great for your bank note design. Try to come up with at least five people. If you need some ideas, try this list.

Step 2: Use The Bank of Canada‘s guidelines to narrow down your list. Your historical figure MUST meet the following requirements:
– Must be Canadian
– Must have died at least 25 years ago
– Must be a REAL person (no fictional characters allowed)

Do any of your options meet all these criteria? Choose one that does!

Step 3: Think about WHY your historical figure is important enough to be featured on a Canadian bank note. Why should everyone in Canada see this person’s face and learn about their life? Write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Step 4: Are there any other symbols that you would like to include on your bill? Try to brainstorm five to ten ideas for other images that can be on the bill along with your historical figure. These can be images of important places, artworks, nature, or cultural symbols.

Step 5: Draw your bank note design. You will need a sheet of paper with 2 rectangles drawn on it. You can do this with a ruler or by tracing an actual bill. You get to decide whether you want to draw all the images on your bill, or if you would like to print out photos and collage them on. Or both!

Make sure you include:
– the portrait of your historical figure
– the dollar amount to indicate the bill’s value
– the other symbols or images you have chosen

Don’t forget to make a FRONT and BACK design for your bill.

When you are finished, add it to your portfolio, along with the brainstorming and writing you did earlier in the project.

Books About Viola Desmond


Click on the books below to buy them from Amazon. Or, you can ask for them at your local library!

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! Read Aloud

Viola Desmond: A Hero For Us All Read Aloud

NOw Let’s Have some fun!