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Historical Happenings with Lianne Harris ~ Social Studies Resource Specialist

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First Contact, Pioneers, Ancient Civilizations, Medieval, Aboriginal, Canadian History ALSO Adult Education (55+ or senior demographic)   ABOUT LIANNE HARRIS As the Social Studies Resource Specialist Consultant for the Toronto District School Board and curriculum advisor for Upper Canada College, Lianne Harris has honed her many years of teaching history into an engaging, dynamic experience.  To date, she has taught over 70 000  students and teachers and in 2003, she was selected by W.O.M.A.D. as one of Toronto’s Women of Influence.   Appearing on TV and interviewed many times on the radio, she has been the keynote presenter at many professional, academic and organization events. WHAT ARE THE PROGRAMS? Social Studies (or History) 'In-Class' Field Trips for grades 3 to 8.  Dynamic workshops and presentations transport the learner into new places and eras–a fascinating journey to different cultures, ideas, concepts and customs! Connections are solidly grounded in understanding the events and social history of the past to the relevancy of today. Always teaching in authentic period clothing, students can see and touch countless objects from Lianne’s personal collection of antiquities, authentic artifacts, and rare collectibles. Each presentation–like an ‘in-class’ field trip–is engaging, participatory, insightful, and of course, fun. FOR ADULT EDUCATION (55+ or seniors) please scroll to END OF DOCUMENT  

Ontario Ministry of Education Curriculum-Based Presentations (half day and full day)


Presentation: ‘First Contact’

Drawing on both the Aboriginal and Early European experience, this presentation explores those crucial first years when these two cultures were struggling to understand each other's unfamiliar ways.  Students will be introduced to ways in which the First Nations helped the settlers survive by medicine, an introduction of strange and unknown foods, indigenous farming and hunting practices, and unfamiliar transportation methods.  In return, the Europeans brought with them highly prized trade goods, new foods, and new ideas.  At times friendly, and at times not, students will learn about the vastly different ways these two cultures communicated with each other and why their perceptions and approaches set them both on a learning curve still felt today.  

Students will be offered a chance to see and touch a mixed array of both authentic aboriginal artifacts and pioneer trade goods including pemmican, authentic animal-gut snowshoes, moccasins, wild animal skins and furs, authentic Hudson's Bay blanket, native medicines, copper kettles, iron pots, textiles, clothing and trapping equipment, and more.

Presentation: ‘Pioneers!’

The 18th and 19th centuries were a period of great innovation, experimentation, and discovery. Students are introduced to The Harris Log Cabin and the fascinating world of the early settlers, revealing the pioneers’ love of the curious…and even the bizarre! Starting with 'morning', 'before noon', 'the wedding' and 'evening', we explore what pioneers would have done, used, celebrated, and had for leisure time–all in a day's work.  There are group 'games', opportunities for students to be volunteer helpers, and demonstrations on trap setting, clothing, and proper etiquette.  The pioneer program examines the immigrant experience, age/gender roles, the difference between rural and urban folk (behaviour, dress, mindset), and innovations that only could have come about by changing one's environment.  It's fun, interactive, with lots of brain food! (beyond 'milking cows and hauling hay').

Wearing a 19th-century costume (ahh, but no 18-inch waist corset!), Ms. Harris invites the students to see first-hand a full array of authentic and antique clothing, shoes, accessories, pictures, grooming aids, household goods, medicines, toys and children’s wear–all belonging to her family.  


Presentation: ‘A Medieval Journey’

Let's go beyond knights and battles to the heart of the medieval world and look at life for all people around the world. This medieval presentation is designed to introduce students to the significant contributions of the medieval world, especially from an international perspective. Students are introduced to Europe in comparison to Central America, The Middle East, Africa, India, China and Mongolia, where the outstanding contributions of each culture are appreciated.

For this presentation, Ms. Harris dons a royal 13th-century costume.  A display table with such medieval worldwide paraphernalia as armour (I would never disappoint any budding knight), wax seals, writing tablets, rings, trenchers, hats, costumes, brooches, cloth, herbs, money, kitchenware, grooming aids, and educational tools allows the students to see, smell, and touch the middle ages!

Presentation: ‘Ancient Civilization’

Who met their friends at shopping malls, vacationed in trailer homes, lived in six- storey apartment buildings?  Who ate pizza?  Used a curling iron?  Toronto students?  Not so!  Class participation reveals some of the more curious elements of Ancient life with an eye on Egypt, Greece, Rome, as well as the significant contributions of Phoenicia, Babylon, Greece, India, Persia, and Asia Minor.  Learn what influences still shape our lives now and what ideas, customs and habits we still practice thousands of years later.

For this presentation, Ms. Harris dons ancient garb from various cultures (your pick or mine).  A display table with such classical paraphernalia as writing implements, statuary, grooming tools, clothing, weaponry, household items, food, games, authentic coins and household wares, grooming aids, textiles, and archeological finds allow the students to see and touch the ancient world! 


Presentation: ‘Vision Quest: A View of Native Canadian Life’

Come explore the exciting life of the First Nations peoples!  How did the Woodland aboriginals work, tell jokes, prepare food, spend leisure time and receive guests?  How did they dress, discipline their children, enforce their laws, and raise their families?  Learn the intricacies about how First Nations peoples approached birth, marriage, courtship and death, how they communicated with sign language,  pictography and ways they recorded their history.  Importantly, the Native contribution to Canadian life is explored.

This workshop explores the cultural, social, religious, and everyday customs and habits of the First Nations people. Students learn about the intricacies of Native life, with content and concepts going beyond what is usually found in the history books.

An informative, interactive presentation, students are encouraged to examine an extensive collection of authentic Native artifacts and materials from Lianne’s family including drums, moccasins, weapons, snowshoes, baskets, jewelry, clothing, and furs. She has spent considerable time on Native Reserves throughout North America since a young girl.  These include Woodland cultured (Ojibwa, Chippewa, Cherokee), Plains cultured (Sioux, Blood), West Coast (Haida) and Seminole.  Ms. Harris has had the unique perspective of participating in and observing the Native way of life through her own experiences.


Presentation: ‘Canada’s Growing Pains – 1885-1914’

Life in Canada between 1885-1914 was one of excitement and upheaval.  It was a time of intense social and economic pressure that created new conditions for change.  Follow the lives of the Harris and the Russell families as they forged ahead under these new and unfamiliar changes and claimed this country as their own.

This informative, interactive presentation allows students to better enjoy and appreciate Canadian Life between 1885-1914.  Wearing a 1910 costume, Ms. Harris introduces students to the social aspects of the times and the changing conditions of a young, emerging country by referring to her own family’s experience.  Students are invited to see first-hand a full array of authentic antique clothing, shoes, accessories, pictures, grooming aids, household goods, medicines, toys and children’s wear from that time period, belonging to the individuals profiled.



Teachers can opt for a HALF day program (morning or afternoon–9am to lunch or lunch to dismissal) or a Full Day program. Which one is right for you?  Up to two classes total (or approx 60 students):  A HALF day is great to give the students a grounded understanding of content. A FULL day (with the same students) is now extended into an enrichment experience, with more time to cover more content (no repeated content). 3 or 4 classes of same grade (more than 60 students):  A full day is recommended with classes split into two groups, one in AM and one in PM (repeated content).  IMPORTANT DETAIL:  Please note that a FULL DAY option is for the SAME presentation topic.  A full day cannot be split into two topics (e.g. Pioneer in AM and then Ancient Civilizations in PM). PRESENTATION SPACE: Any space that can hold the students comfortably and the necessary tables (or cleared desks) for display.  A library, classroom, staffroom, or part of a gym is fine.  It is not feasible to move from room to room so the presentation needs a dedicated space. GEOGRAPHICAL AREA SERVED: Primarily serving the GTA: all of Toronto, including Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Markham, Thornhill, Unionville, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, King, and Newmarket. Additionally, York Region schools that are within a 1-hour drive of Toronto.  Boundaries: West: to Oakville; East: to Bowmanville; North: up to Hwy #89 on the 400; up to Keswick, and Georgina on Hwy #48 (Markham Road).

FEES: Are available upon request.

I look forward to working with you!

ADULT EDUCATION (55+ or senior demographic)

PROGRAMS: Three years ago, I was asked to develop a special series of 1-hour adult education presentations and discussion topics especially suited for a mature audience  (55+) who wants to be educated and intellectually stimulated while being entertained. Currently, I have developed 35+ enriching historical and cultural subjects that have proven to be immensely popular by those in the senior demographic range.  Education should be fun so I skip all the 'boring bits' about history and head right into all the relevant 'juicy stuff' people want to know–or wish they knew–when in school. And all this, of course, with me in relevant period clothing!  Interested in anything? Just ask and I'll email you a poster of any topic or the catalogue of all topics and content.


  • Ancient Egypt
  • Greek Mythology & Modern Consumerism (yes, they actually do go together..)
  • The Vikings
  • Undressed: A History of Hygiene
  • The Victorians  
  • Canada's Growing Pains: 1885-1918 
  • The Queen's Closet: The Message Behind Clothing
  • Amazing Women in History
  • The Luck of the Irish: A Journey into the Land and People of Ireland
  • Everything You Wanted to Know about Scotland–in 1 Hour
  • From Paris, with Love 
  • The Harem
  • Beijing: Secrets from a Forbidden City
  • Mongolia: The Earth Shakers
  • Greed & Desire: Hot Commodities in History
  • Everything You Wanted To Know About Art….But Were Afraid to Ask
  • Famous Lovers – series 1
  • Famous Lovers — series 2
  • Fables, Fairytales & Rhymes: Lessons for Real Life
  • Enchanted Food: The Symbolic Use of Food in the Stories We Love
  • Winged Majesty: Angels in Literature, Lore & Art
  • Lost Civilizations
  • Treasures of the Deep: Sunken Ships & Pirate Maps
  • Martians & Moon Goddesses: Perspectives of Outer Space
  • Ancient Rome *premium program, essential display
  • A Medieval Journey *premium program, essential display 
  • Vision Quest: A View of Native Life *premium program, essential display 
  • Pioneers! *premium program, essential display 
  • The Fountain of Youth NEW–NEW available now
  • MesoAmerica: The New World Before Columbus (Inca, Maya & Aztec) NEW–available now
  • Canada's Black HistoryNEW available now
  • The Princesses of Wales–NEW available now
  • Royal Scandals NEW–NEW available now
  • The Roaring 20’s NEW–NEW available now 
  • Christmas: Stories and Symbols– NEW available now
  • She-Wolves of the Throne: Queens Who Ruled — NEW available now
  • Bad Advertising From The Past — NEW available now 
  • Tudor Secrets– NEW available now

FEES: Availabile on request. GEOGRAPHICAL AREA SERVED: West: to Oakville, East:  to Oshawa, Central: Toronto, North: to Keswick EQUIPMENT QUESTIONS: I have a screen, projector, and computer–all I need is a table and space!    

Toronto, GTA, Oakville, Mississauga, Markham, Thornhill, Unionville, Vaughan, Aurora, Newmarket, Keswick, York Region, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Bowmanville, Clarington
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“Amazing Presentations...we enjoy having her back every year for over a decade.”    Magalie St. Fleur, teacher, Parkdale Public School, Toronto

“Your presentation was fabulous, super connections with your material  and ours.”  Kendle McCloskey, primary division teacher, Branksome Hall, Toronto

“Lianne’s presentations are always solidly researched, and the emphasis on social history makes them very accessible and engaging for students.  The detailed costumes and authentic artifacts bring a realism to historical periods that otherwise can be hard for students to imagine.  Lianne’s teaching skills are excellent and her warm, approachable manner encourages students to actively participate.  The presentations help launch a unit of study, support learning mid-way, or provide a rich culminating activity.  Students are left wishing for more and it can be hard to tear them away.”    Corinne Wyatt, teacher, West Prep Public School, Toronto

“We absolutely love having Lianne’s expertise for our summer school programs.  Every year we pray she is available.”   Joy Ryman, Phoenix Summer Program at Seneca Hill P.S. 

“As a teacher, I appreciate  her delivery that never 'talks down' to the childen but instead happily elevates the scope of their understanding.  More difficult concepts are put into a context that is relatable, understood and most importantly, enjoyed by the students.  Every social studies unit we teach has a perfect match to her expert, interactive presentations. Joanna Panayotopoulous, teacher, Port Royal Public School, Toronto

"My students were totally engaged from the moment Mrs. Harris walked in the room in her period costume.  Interacting with the pioneer artifacts she had on display brought pioneer times to life.  The students thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and wished she could come back another day."         Jill Kemp, teacher, Rolph Road Public School, Toronto

“Lianne had the students eating out of the palm of her hand.”    Lisa Fleming, Upper Canada College, Toronto

“The university class loved her!  It was a great day for everyone.  Many students lingered afterward to talk and listen more, some even prepared to miss their next class.   Kathryn Mondragon, Tutorial Professor, York University, Toronto

“Wonderful, wonderful...her programs enrich the curriculum so well!  I always learn something new.”    Liana Roman-Leizerovici, teacher, Pleasant Public School, Toronto.

“We are as keen as ever to learn from her and for her to share her expertise every year.”          Martin Franklin, teacher, Given-Shaw Public School, Toronto

“I was absorbed in your presentation and learned a great deal.  I look forward to telling other staff about you!”   Sharon Gusz, teacher-librarian, All Saints Catholic School

The Grade 8 presentation was great--students were right into it.  We will definitely book for next year.”   Agnes Wong, teacher , Crosby Heights Public School, Markham

“My grade 7-8 students talked about the Myth and Media presentation all day.  They didn’t want to leave, even at break.”  Trudy Rampersad-MacFarland, teacher, Samuel Hearne, Public School, Toronto

STUDENTS’ COMMENTS  (direct quotes from unsolicited letters and mail)

“The thing that interested me most was almost everything.” 

“I really enjoyed how you set everything up and dressed up.  I also liked how you played a game with us about guessing what they used and what they didn’t use.”

“Your presentation was awesome!!!  I think it was awesome because I never had to ask my questions and get my hand tired—you answered everything I could think of asking!”  

“The best part was when we got to touch the stuff and when you showed how the silk was very good protection for (Mongolian) soldiers.” 

“You made your presentation funny instead of just talking like other people do.  I wish you could stay the whole day.  My favourite part was when you talked about clothing.” 

“I like how you got the students to participate.  You answered our questions so we can understand.”

“I want to know where did you get all your stuff?”

“…I loved your 13th century dress.  I especially liked the True or False questions…”  

“Your medieval presentation was fantastic.  You gave us kids a lot of clear information about medieval times…I never knew so much about Medieval Times until you came…”  


“Living in today’s world, I find it comforting and inspiring to learn about those in our past who have overcome great challenges.  I was spellbound by M. Harris’s presentation as she gave insight to this.  Witnessing their failures and successes gives me hope to go on fighting the good fight.  An inspiring evening!” Judy Smiley, President, Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs (CAWEE)

“An outstanding event yesterday at Amica.  Our residents and staff were simply blown away by your presentation and your presence.  You definitely put on quite a show!  Many of my residents are telling me that we absolutely have to bring you back again soon, and we are already planning another future event around you, which is fabulous. Please feel free to use myself as a reference. We will highly recommend you!” Lynn Alty, Community Relations Assistant, Amica at Whitby

“I found Lianne to be very passionate about her material, extremely knowledgeable on historical women in history.  I am proud to know that she is out there spreading the word and the history that has been ignored or forgotten . . . we need mentors to look to in history to realize we can make a significant difference while we are on this earth.  We need to know our actions, movements and decisions are ‘historical’.”  Pamela Horan, Business Development Bank of Canada

“Lianne’s lively presentation and fascinating information made fore the perfect after dinner program—informative and fun!  Lianne brings to life facts about women you never were told about at school but helped to reshape nations and lead countries through history.”                            Beth Parker, C.E.O., Words and Solutions, Toronto

“We are as keen as ever to learn from her and for her to share her expertise.  It is one of the highlights coming to Toronto.”   Donald Sun, North American Director, Ceragem, Los Angeles

“We’ve had the utmost pleasure in introducing Lianne to our membership to educate and enthrall us all.  Lianne’s infinite knowledge and passion for what she does shines through in the eyes of her audience.  She is exhilarating, captivating and creates a sense of excitement when she lectures & performs.  Our members always look forward to Lianne’s return to experience their next historical adventure”!  R. Jean Russell, Co-Chair, M.A.D. (Mature Adult Days), East Toronto

“Lianne’s presentation was lively and eventful!  I could listen to her stories of amazing women all evening!”  Beth Brook, Royal Bank of Canada