Living in Sandy Hill: continuity and change as the neighbourhood evolves


Learning objectives

The student will:

  • Use the inquiry process to analyze the historical evolution of Sandy Hill since its creation in the 19th century
  • Define the elements of continuity and change in the development of Sandy Hill
  • Evaluate whether or not the living conditions of Francophones have improved since the neighbourhood was established in the 19th century
  • Clearly communicate ideas through teamwork and group discussions.

SPACE component: Living in Sandy Hill


Ottawa’s Sandy Hill is a historic district located southeast of downtown and bounded by Rideau Street to the north and the Rideau River to the east. The University of Ottawa campus now occupies a significant portion of Sandy Hill, to the extent that it is now considered a “student” neighbourhood. It was a political figure from Lower Canada, a native of Québec, who masterminded the development of Sandy Hill. Pursued by the British government after the 1838 rebellion, Louis-Théodore Besserer fled in 1845, to a huge piece of land he had purchased in Bytown a few years earlier on the slope south of Rideau Street. A shrewd businessman, he had the land subdivided into lots (fractions of the land for sale), including church and school land “to attract buyers.” He donated six lots on Wilbrod Street to establish the College of Bytown, which went on to become the University of Ottawa, on the site it still occupies today. Besserer is credited with creating several streets, one of which still bears his name. Francophones and Anglophones rub shoulders in the neighbourhood, as do students and local residents. In many ways, the Sandy Hill study offers a unique portrait of the evolving lives of people in downtown Ottawa. This analysis explores how people and living conditions – the set of characteristics of the environment in which people live – change or remain the same over decades.

Based on an analysis of the “Living in Sandy Hill” theme, what were the elements of continuity and change that influenced the lives of people in the neighborhood? Answer this historical analysis question by conducting a virtual inquiry that considers the territory, population and local architecture of Sandy Hill.



Living in Sandy Hill

Additional resources:

Sandy Hill neighbourhood, Google maps.

Comparative images of Sandy Hill (past and present)

Activity description


The teacher reviews with students the process of inquiry necessary to complete the activity. This process seeks to guide students in responding to the analytical question presented in the activity, using their critical sense. The process includes the following steps:

  • Formulate analytical questions (What is my initial question? What should I address?)
  • Collect sources and organize information (What sources and data are available?)
  • Analyze and interpret the information collected (What do the sources reveal? What is the evidence?)
  • Evaluate and draw conclusions (What conclusions can be drawn from this analysis?)
  • Communicate the inquiry results (What is my response to the question?)



The teacher tells students about the work to be completed during the activity, which is to trace the historical evolution of the Sandy Hill neighborhood, taking into account the concepts of continuity and change over time.

The teacher explains the concepts of continuity and change in people's lives. Continuity refers to human or material aspects of life that remain constant or stable through time, such as the need for housing and food. In contrast, change refers to any observable transformation over time, such as women's voting rights. Continuity and change are interdependent and constant, because in all aspects of life we ​​deal with some processes that remain relatively stable, and others that do not.

The teacher also explains that some aspects of life change more quickly than others. History puts these changes into perspective. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, for example, represent dramatic and rapid change, a turning point in Canada's counter-terrorism policy. On the other hand, elections and other functions of the Canadian parliamentary system remain much more stable.

The teacher also points out that historical change can be positive or negative. Contrary to popular belief, change does not automatically lead to progress, any more than continuity represents stagnation. As a result, a perceived positive change (e.g. the development of air travel) can also have negative effects (e.g. air pollution). To be able to judge the direction of change, it is a good idea to compare two moments – either two points in the past, or a point in the past with a point in the present.


The teacher:

  • Explains the work to be completed during the activity, which involves identifying the positive or negative elements of continuity and change in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood, as indicated in the virtual exhibition; these will be presented in an audio-visual report at an important community event in the neighborhood.
  • Divides the students into teams, ensuring that each team has access to a computer.
  • Provides each team with Worksheet 1: Analyzing continuity and change through history, which will be used to organize and analyze the information collected by the students.
  • Explains that their work to analyze the historical evolution of Sandy Hill from the time of its creation in the 19th century must include:
    • Elements of continuity (which aspects of the territory, architecture and population have remained constant?)
    • Elements of change (what aspects of the territory, architecture and population have changed over the years?).
  • Invites students to visit the virtual exhibition section, “Living in Sandy Hill.”
  • Observes and guides student work in analyzing information and data from the virtual exhibition.
  • Encourages students to read and make sense of the historical sources used in the virtual exhibition, including Google maps, to find relevant information and evidence to support their analysis.
  • Ensures that each team completes the worksheet and provides a detailed answer to the inquiry question.


The teacher:

  • Asks each team to choose a spokesperson.
  • Invites the spokespeople to present their findings based on their team’s responses to Worksheet 1.
  • Facilitates an exchange within the class based on the answers presented, with the intention of tracing the historical evolution of the Sandy Hill neighborhood, taking into account continuity and change.
  • Collects worksheets and provides written feedback to the teams.
  • Asks students to evaluate the positive and negative effects of change in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood on the lives of Francophones.
  • Asks each student to answer the following question: To what extent has the development of Sandy Hill improved the living conditions of Francophones since the 19th century?
  • Assists the student in developing his/her answer on Worksheet 2 and, based on the positive/negative aspects identified during the activity, to prepare a radio or television report for a community event in Sandy Hill.