Eagle Mountain Middle School : Exploration of History

Arts Education, Science, Social Studies

School: Eagle Mountain Middle School, Anmore

Teacher: Andrea Coupe and Danielle Murdoch

Artist Collaborators: C Gaspar & A Baignoche

Class: Grade 6/7



Students explored various time periods in history using the BIG IDEA of: the environment shapes how people develop. Different aspects of culture were explored and students created their own inquiries based on interests with strong emphasis on using art and alternate formats as a way to express knowledge.


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition

  • During the Granville Island tour, the class looked at how Giants influences the environment around it and vice versa with an emphasis on people’s reaction to the art and the location. The idea behind this urban mural was explored – was the motivation behind the creation related to the environment in some way? How did the beliefs (a cultural universal) of the artists influence the art?
  • An overarching idea students explored was while cultures/civilizations were developing all over the world in seemingly different ways, there is still a relative sameness to it all – we are all similar and we all, generally, want the same thing. Therefore while there are borders, those are only figurative – not literal.

Other Resources:

  • Website and corresponding video from Guns, Germs and Steel (Explores how people developed over time and why some developed more than others resulting in inequality)
  • Youtube series: Crash Course in History
  • Mankind DVD
  • Movie: Wasteland by Vik Muniz (A Brazilian artist uses his art to inspire change)
  • Website: (A journalist traces our ancestors migration out of the Rift Valley – he is literally walking this path)



The environment shapes how people develop (culture, technology, basic survival, trade etc.).


Guiding Questions

  • How do different cultures develop in different environments?
  • How do people adapt over time and influence the environment?

Learning Process/Inquiry challenges:

The learning process was facilitated by art inquiry through music and theatre. The students explored how sounds and music are related to the environment and how they in turn shape people.

The lesson concepts and inquiry activities that were taken up during the project were:

Keeping in mind the BIG IDEA of “the environment influences and affects how people develop”, students began by exploring environments and ancient cultures.

Throughout this unit of study students used the five points of inquiry as a model for learning.

  • First – Lessons/concepts on environments/ecosystems. Students explored a variety of ecosystems and environments on earth and corresponding traits (climate, animals, geographic features etc) (Science). Students created a visual piece (tableau) to represent the information they found.
  • Second – Students explored cultural universals – first through their own families then leading to an exploration of different ancient cultures (Social Studies).
  • Third – Finding relationships between environment and culture – an exploration of the environment of a particular ancient cultures and the universals found within it. Besides studying how the environment influenced the resulting civilization, students explored the particular elements they were interested in and generated a question for their inquiry (ex. Food – how did different discoveries/trade with others, influence and change food production/preparation?).
  • Fourth – Exploration of innovation/discoveries/triggers in history – did environment play a role? How did people adapt/change as a result? Examples – disease (typhoid, small pox), aqueducts, gunpowder etc etc.
  • Throughout the study, students were provided the opportunity to represent their learning in a variety of ways with some emphasis on creativity and the use of art (ex. Create a sculpture, a collage, a series of photos etc) to show what they know/have learned.

Field trip: The project began with the students and the teachers exploring the Biennale sculptures – Human Structures Vancouver, Love Your Beans, Giants. The students explored ideas around the relationship between environment and culture throughout the field trip. They used the Art Inquiry Worksheet to guide their exploration and inquiry process. Some of the key ideas that they explored were: the relationship of the sculptures to their environment, materials used by the artist, and how the artist’s ideas and beliefs shaped the artwork. The students studied the environment and their surroundings as closely as the artwork and it resulted in many interesting observations that were presented in the mind mapping exercise which was used to reflect on the experience of the field trip.

Mind Mapping (Reflection from the field trip): A significant aspect of the field trip was the reflection and sharing of ideas and observations after the field trip. The teachers encouraged the students to share their experiences through mind maps. Before working on the mind maps, together with the class, the teachers decided on a framework. The framework for the mind maps were closely linked to the guiding questions and the BIG IDEAS of the project.

Soundscape: During the first workshop with the artists, the students went through voice and body warm-up exercises, after which they explored the concept of soundscape. Similar to how landscapes give us an visual idea about the environment, soundscapes give us a aural idea. The students were given basic level of training in creating soundscapes: using the body to create sounds, layering the sounds, volume, pitch, etc. They were divided into groups and, working with the artists, they tried to come up with their own soundscapes. During this exercise, the students worked with awareness and attention, trying to recreate sounds to layer into their soundscape.

Frozen Tableau: In the next session, the students worked on creating a sculpture with their bodies using the form of a frozen tableau. The artist invited the students to brainstorm and come up with an idea or a concept for a human sculpture that represented their school and it’s identity. Some of the ideas that the students came up with were: the four animals of their school, the elements of their school, the sports that were played in the school etc. The students used their bodies to represent these ideas. These tableaux were presented to the other groups and refined with the input from the artists and teachers.

Moving Tableau: The next step in the process was to animate the frozen tableau and add sounds and words to it. This was done to enhance meaning and make to each of the sculptures cohesive. Each group was asked to write a poem describing their sculpture and to integrated it into their tableau. Additionally, they added sounds to the tableau, creating a soundscape that added more meaning.

Final presentation: These tableaux were presented to the students of the other division as a final presentation and sharing of their learning and experiences.


Cross-Curricular Access

Science, Social Studies, Art and Language Arts curriculum were used throughout as outlined in the previously mentioned lessons. The new draft curriculum for these four areas was used this year and applied to the BIG IDEAS project.

Social Studies: 

  • The evolution of societies in different parts of the world was shaped by adaptation to local geographic and environment conditions.
  • Technological progress had a dramatic impact on the natural environment.
  • Discoveries and innovations can result in progress or decline


  • Ecosystems and environments
  • The theory of evolution by natural selection provides an explanation for the diversity of living things.

Arts Education:

  • A variety of national and international works of art and artistic traditions from diverse cultures, communities, times and places, including traditional and contemporary Aboriginal arts and arts – making processes.

Student Creation

•   Human sculptures through tableau representing their school identity

•   Mind maps as a tool for reflection after the field trip




Planning and conceptualizing sessions. The artist and the teachers planned the entire project, discussing the objectives, approach, workshop activities


Field trip to Human Structures, Giants and Love Your Bean

Reflection using the mind mapping

Workshop on soundscapes: The students explored how to create soundscapes


Workshop on tableau: The students were asked to come up with a sculpture to represent their school and it’s identity. This sculpture was created using their bodies in the form of a frozen tableau

The frozen tableaus were animated. Movement, sounds and words were added to the tableau to enhance it’s meaning.

Final presentation



Teachers – Andrea Coupe and Danielle Murdoch

Our experience with Biennale was wonderful! The artists, Christina and Anna, were music specialists and brought wonderful perspectives to our class. A focus we’ve been working on this term is risk taking – both trying new things in our work and behaviours such as participating in class. Anna and Christina provided the class not only with activities that challenged them but made them feel comfortable while doing it. I really appreciated the way in which they were able to incorporate our big ideas into music and movement. It really showed the students how one can convey meaning through a variety of ways, including our bodies!

The fieldtrip was excellent as well! Having studied sculptures before the fieldtrip, this was a great opportunity to put into play some of the things the student had learned. Being in the environment and experiencing it first-hand really gave the students a true sense of the art as well as its situation.

Overall, I felt my class developed new perspectives and respect for using alternate methods for show casing learning as well as developing their creative thinking skills.

Artists – Christina Gasper and Anna Baignoche

Upon entering the classroom at Eagle Mountain, Christina and I were welcomed, supported and given a lot of freedom to explore our ideas with the children, which we were very grateful for. After hearing feedback from the class regarding the Bienalle sculptures they visited, Christina and I explored the idea of them creating their own living sculptures out of their own bodies and exploring the sounds that went with the sculptures. Their sculptures (body, sound, words) were to represent their home, their school and themselves. There were several different groups comprised of 5-6 students. They discussed and improvised until they discovered what their sculpture would be individually as well as collectively, expressing themselves physically, as well as through spoken word. We (Christina, Andrea, and Anna) were very encouraged and impressed by the way the students took direction, took risks, and were very creative with their ideas. We were also impressed with the fact that many of them may not have expressed themselves in these artistic mediums much before but were excited and open to trying. It was also interesting how some students were obviously naturally inclined to express themselves in these introspective and creative ways and we would hope that they would be encouraged to continue with this self-expression.


“I thought that having the Biennale artists come in was a great learning experience fro all of us. They taught us it was okay to make mistakes because in the end everyone is human. Each session Anna and Christina would say, “It’s okay to take risks” or, “It’s good you’re taking risks!” In my opinion I feel it made people comfortable.” – Lauren Carlin, grade 6

“I will say though I liked that Anna and Christina were sort of ‘dragging us out of our dark corners’ if you know what I mean. Like they wre experimenting and thinking outside of the box and I think that had a strong influence on me because I am naturally an iftrover and doing stuff in front of audiences is hard for me.” – Alex Itcush, grade 7

“I think this program has taken a blindfold off of me. I feel like I have a new set of eyes because this experience has taught me not only about art but about life. It has taught me to risk-take and not be worried about what others think and that my opinion is valued. Also teamwork. Pluslooking at something in a different perspective.” – Taryn Mills, grade 6