Grandview Elementary: Together We Are Stronger

Arts Education, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies

School: Grandview Elementary School

Teacher: Trish Musselle

Artist Collaborators: Gordon Cobb

Class: Grade 2/3



For this project, students had the opportunity to write, perform, and record a song/video as a class about how the values of cooperation, acceptance, generosity, compassion and responsibility tie them to the larger global community. The students worked with artist collaborator Gordon Cobb.

Relying on student-centred dialogue and collaboration, this project facilitated an open-minded learning culture by incorporating each student’s voice into their writing/music/performance. An open-minded learning culture relies on cooperation, acceptance, and a safe learning environment where students feel they can be themselves and therefore take risks with their thinking and growing perspectives on the world.


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition

The Vancouver Biennale’s Virtual Tours were used to view previous exhibitions.The first piece chosen was Ai Weiwei’s “F Grass” which is meant to promote resilience and perseverance. Weiwei is from China, a country known for communism. His message is that citizens have the power to create social change and be as “resilient” as grass. Many of the students in the class could relate to this statement, as three of the students’ families engaged in a “sit-in” where they occupied a governmental office to campaign for Aboriginal rights. The students connected to the piece very strongly.

The second piece students looked at was Vik Muniz’ “Untitled (Wolf)” which is in Squamish. As soon as Cobb played the virtual tour video of the piece, the students were amazed. Muniz’ piece is a “grand scale land mosaic” that used natural materials, such as rocks and moss, to create a picture. The piece is intended to eventually become one with the earth as the natural materials will eventually take over. Made with input from the Squamish Nation elders, the elders chose a wolf since it represents “collaboration and unity: values that Muniz felt represented the community of Squamish and the process of the project itself.” Trish asked the students if any of them had connections to the Squamish Nation, such as family/friends, and many of them did.



  • Gr. 2 Language Arts: Listening and speaking helps us to explore, share, and develop our ideas. Using language in creative and playful ways helps us to understand how language works.

  • Gr. 3 Social Studies: People from diverse cultures and societies share common experiences and aspects of life.

Guiding Questions

  • How does the artwork/music that we make represent the many faces of our class?
  • How do people’s beliefs, values, worldviews, and experiences shape our different perspectives on people, places, and local/global issues? How does this drive our feelings of cooperation and acceptance?

Cross-Curricular Access

Social Studies:

  •  Sequence objects, images, and events, and explain why some aspects change and others stay the same (continuity and change).
  • Consider relationships between humans and their environments.
  • Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences.


  • Living things have life cycles adapted to their environment.
  • First Peoples use of their knowledge of life cycles
  • Living things are diverse, can be grouped, and interact in their ecosystems.
  • Biodiversity in the local environment

Language Arts:

  • Reading literary texts and writing meaningful personal texts.
  • Read stories that help us learn about ourselves, our families, and our communities.
  •  Explore the elements of what makes a story – character, theme, setting.
  • Plan and create a variety of communication forms for different purposes and audiences.
  • Have students record their own stories or the story of an imaginary character through writing.
  • Have students write from the point of view of one of the characters in the narrative artwork they explored.

Inquiry Challenges/Learning Process

  • The students drew self-portraits and portraits to describe emotions they feel.  The students then attached these faces to their own journey and the places they travel regularly – home, school, the park, the mall, etc. What do these places tell us about who you are as an individual and your story?
  • Communicating a Story:  Students consider how they want to tell their own story. Students had the ability to use various mediums, keeping in mind how they wanted to communicate musically through song and visually within their video.
  • As a whole group, the students collectively brainstormed what it means for them to be who they are. They then shared the ideas as a class, considering the question, what are some of the things that people have in common within the class and outside the class in story or through art?
  • The inquiry activities included free-writes, dialogue and collaborative inquiry, digital portfolios of photography, videography, visual artwork, and creative writing, reflecting on creative processes and making connections to own experiences, as well as considering how dance, drama, music and visual arts are each unique languages for creating and communicating.

 Student Creation

Teachers used student interest to guide the content of the project while still using the theme of “Together we are stronger”. Students chose to focus on ocean life and ecosystems, having enjoyed learning about those subjects in class. Projects preceding their collaboration with the Biennale included:

  • Creating Haida moon-inspired depictions of the salmon life cycle
  • Creating jellyfish suncatchers inspired by jellyfish biology
  • Raising salmon eggs in the classroom, observing their development after they hatch, and releasing the salmon fry
  • Writing acrostic poems, cinquains, and haiku about marine biology and ecosystems
  • A collaborative mural depicting kelp forests and their food webs
  • Creating storybooks that provide information about different food webs

Gordon Cobb used students’ works, especially their poems, to guide, inspire, and provide the content for music that he and the students produce in collaboration. Please read the Gordon’s reflection on the song creation process.

Enjoy the two original songs sung by the students here:

Salmon Song

We Are All Better Living As One



Artist – Gordon Cobb

I very much enjoyed working with these two groups of grade two and three students.  We began by looking at a number of the Biennale virtual tours, including Blue Trees, F Grass, and Wolf.  Using components from each class’ curricula, I collaborated with the teachers and students to create and record a song based on their ideas and drawings.

The first group decided to create a song based on the life cycle of the salmon, having recently raised salmon in class from fertilized eggs and released them to the wild.  Together we created a hip-hop song with rapped lyrics called “The Salmon Song.”  I created a backing track in GarageBand and added a practice vocal track using my own vocals.  The students were then able to practice the song together in class using the practice track.  We recorded all of the vocals in our last class together and then I emailed the song to their teacher Trish a few days later.

The second group was studying Ocean Sciences, and in one of their workbooks, I found a couple of pages describing the relationship between the kelp forest and sea otters.   In a similar manner to the first project, I created a backing track in GarageBand and laid down a practice vocal track using my own vocals.  The students were then able to practice the song together in class using the practice track.  We recorded the student’s vocals in our last class together and then I emailed the song to their teacher Nicole.

Both music tracks were a huge success and we all had a wonderful time working together!