TORONTO - A Grade 8 North York class topped a cross-Canada survey that tested students in 600 schools about history, legal, policing and government systems, plus the first prime minister.
Ladan Osman and Truvilan Luu, both 14, were quick to provide Sir John A. Macdonald's name and July 1, 1867 as Confederation's start when teacher Maria Elena Fernandez asked sample questions after an awards ceremony Friday at Beverly Heights Middle School.
Luu said she was particularly keen on the "peacekeeping" subject.
She listened intently as guest speaker Major John Fisher described 31 years in the army, four overseas peacekeeping missions and his family's military involvement starting in 1759 at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
The British victory near the New France capital ended the "French and Indian-^wars, the fourth-generation soldier told 158 students, their teachers and principal.
Still enjoying military life, the Toronto-based Canadian Forces staff college officer said volunteering and a focus on honoured history plus customs is an important tradition in Canada.
"We're a peaceful country," Fisher told the students, many from other countries, warning "we can't take the freedoms in Canada for granted."
A private at 17 before attending Royal Military College in Kingston,"^Fisher said some Canadians on peacekeeping missions are faced with conditions "more like wars,-^but softly declined to answer one student who asked if he had ever killed anyone, saying "it's not a question you ask a soldier."
He reminded the attentive, applauding youngsters that the national anthem -- sung earlier by a student accompanied by African-style drums -- contains a key phrase:"^"We stand on guard for thee."
Anyone interested in the military should complete high school and consider university if they want to be an officer, Fisher said.
"It's a great life...I've had lots of opportunities and have travelled to more than 20 countries and made some great friends," he said.
Jeremy Diamond, director of the Historica-Dominion Institute, which sponsored the 2010-11 Canadian Citizenship Challenge, presented Fernandez's class with copies of the book, 101 Things Canadians Should Know About Canada.
He said their 94.4% average score was the highest among 15,000 participating students and demonstrates an "impressive knowledge of Canadian history and civic life."
Diamond said the institute's goal is to help Canadians have a better understanding of history, plus the value of cultural backgrounds, "who they are and where they came from."