Henry Hudson K – Gr 6/7 and Kitsilano Gr 10

Arts Education, Health and Career Education, Language Arts

Artist Collaborators: Brendan McLeod and Donna Sheh


Henry Hudson Elementary, Vancouver, BC

Kitsilano Secondary School, Vancouver, BC



Henry Hudson Elementary: Lourdes Meza , Bina Desai, Nancy Morehouse, Katherine Tso, Gabriela Novotny, Stephen Lerch, Sara Langlois

Kitsilano Secondary: Cristina Fogale, Aron Rosenberg (teaching practicum)



Brendan McLeod, Donna Sheh, Lorraine White-Wilkinson



K – Grade 6/7, Grade 10


Sources of Inspiration:

Vancouver Biennale Legacy: A-Maze-ing Laughter at Morton Park, Vancouver



Seven teachers (K to Grade 7 from English and French Immersion program) from Henry Hudson Elementary collectively decided to take on this Self-Regulation project initiative as they identified and shared the issue that many students have difficulties expressing themselves, understanding how others express themselves and making the right choice to stay focus or on task. The project was extended to include a Grade 10 French Language class from their neighbourhood secondary school, Kitsilano. Individual classes visited the Biennale legacy sculpture, A-Maze-ing Laughter to inspire an inquiry on expression of emotions. This was followed by training and implementation of the MindUP program in the classrooms. A team of visual art, dance and spoken words artists collaborated with teachers across grades on a series of inquiry challenges to explore and reflect on mindful expression of feelings and their impact on their peers and the school environment and culture. Students from the secondary and elementary schools made connections through classroom visits and sharing their voice on mindful expression and listening through a joint school performance.



Mindful Expression


Guiding Question:

How can we mindfully express our feelings and ideas? How our verbal and non-verbal expressions impact on others? How to raise awareness of personal roles and responsibilities?


Curriculum Access:

Arts Education – Visual Arts, Dance, Language Arts, Social Responsibility, Health and Career Education


Learning Process:

The project begins with individual class visits to the public art installation: A-Maze-ing Laughter. The students were guided to observe and discuss the facial expression and body gesture of the sculpture. This was followed by practicing MindUp in the classrooms. The project activities were condensed over the month of April when the students were exposed to multiple artistic forms to express their emotions and how they deal with shifting their emotion states: spoken words, visual arts plus dance movements and sequences. Through this approach, the students reflect on their past personal behaviours and experiences without any judgement imposed. The inquiry challenges included games, discussions, demos, and creative art assignments to heighten students’ awareness to mindfully feel and express emotions within their daily environment. The goal to share a collective message to the school and broader community at large was achieved through the creation of a collaborative performance event by all participating students to their peers, teachers and parents. The goal of making a sustainable behavioral shift have now started with this project, it would require a continuous strong commitment to develop it into the norm of all the stakeholders.


Student Creations:

The Kindergarten class created a project legacy, a Big Book that was shared with other students and parents during the school performance. The Big Book documents the learning process via a collection of student drawings expressing what an emotion looks like in a line, photographs of acting out their emotions, text explaining their imagery, and photographs of the clay sculptures on what an emotion looks like in a 3D form.

Grade 1 students created puppets from photos of their faces and hand gestures while acting out two different emotions: a happiness and a sadness or anger. The students were inspired by their experience from A-maze-ing Laughter when they express themselves. The puppets were made of cloth and decorated with abstract and colourful patterns as expression of their emotions. The class wrote a poem together and performed it as a song with the puppets.

Three Grade 2 and 3 Classes: The students created poster boards, spoken words and dance movement to express their voice on mindful expression. The poster boards were composed of bold figurative representations of embodied emotions by using a buddy as the model. A series of line drawings and text were added on to represent emotions through shape, colour and words. This visual art inquiry challenged the students to work with positive/negative space to create and express. The students also created movements that reflected emotions of their choice in small groups and accompanied their dances with poems that related an emotion to another experience metaphorically.

Grade 4/5 and 6/7 Class: The students created shapes to express two different emotions of choice and moved in dance sequences in groups across space at different times as an expression that individuals experience the same emotions differently. Students expressed shift in emotion states through movement as part of their dance creation. Furthermore students wrote short poems to mirror some aspect of their dance which were then integrated with the dance choreography for the final performance.

Grade 10 Class: The students chose the topic of mindful listening. Working in small groups, students wrote French poems in style of their choice such as hyperbole, rap, free verse, etc.


Taking Action:

The students participating in the project became spokesperson on how to mindfully express one’s emotion by putting on a performance to their peers, teachers and parents. By raising the profile and awareness of the self-regulation issue, the school has reaffirmed this big idea will continue as a school mandate next year.

This project also has far reaching broad community impact: the project documentary video was shared with 400+ attendees at the Dalai Lama Center’s 2013 Heart and Minds Conference and blogged by Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of West Vancouver School District. Novus TV was on location on performance day for online posting and community channel broadcasting.




  • Explored personal responses to A-Maze-ing Laughter through projected images in classroom and field trip
  • Survey and interview students on how they feel about their communication and the communication of others, and how well they self-regulate
  • Senior group discussed censorship and freedom of expression as inspired by the cultural background of the artist.

Feb – Mar

  • MindUP training


  • K: Explored expression of emotions with bodies, faces, and line drawings
  • Creative sculpting of different emotions with clay
  • Drawings and photographs collected into a book form
  • Gr 1: Explored expression of emotions with facial expression and hand gestures through printmaking
  • Wrote a song on emotions
  • Creative puppet making, incorporating photographs of students’ faces and hands onto a cloth body decorated with their prints
  • Gr 4/5, 6/7: Introduced to creative dance movements
  • Started dance sequencing: students chose two emotions that are different from each other and worked on expressing the emotions through shapes and movements
  • Worked on mirroring exercise as a metaphor for ‘reflecting’ on how they are feeling
  • Gr 6/7: In groups: discussed emotions that may require regulation, brainstorm ways to shift from that state and express it through movement.
  • Gr 4/5: Worked on a dance formation in a ‘V’ – point of V being the calmest state and moving outwards towards red zones. Students talked about their own emotions in these states and worked in team to express them in group shape and gestures.
  • Gr 2-3: Created poster boards
  • Created dance movements and sequences that express their emotions of choice in small groups
  • Built vocabulary by finding synonyms for words that express emotions and wrote short poems to accompany the dance sequences
  • Shared and exchanged between English and French Immersion classes/with primary grade
  • Grade 10 Bicycle Ride over to HH to work with Grade 7 french immersion class.
  • Gr 2-3: French immersion group walks to Kits to work on Mindful listening with Grade 10 class.


  • Dress Rehearsal and Performance
  • Documentary video shared at conference
  • Broadcasted through Novus TV Channel
  • Blogged through cultureofyes




Gabriela Novotny (Gr. 2/3 French Immersion Teacher)

“A lot of our students were having difficulties self regulating; in a given moment they don’t always make the right choices with their friends, completing a task…so looking at our students and seeing that one of their needs is to be able to express themselves and understand how others express themselves, we chose to explore the question how do we mindfully express our feelings and ideas.”

“It might look simple but there was this huge journey that brought us to where we got to.” – Gabriela Novotny (Gr. 2-3)


Sara Langlois, Grade 6/7 French Immersion Teacher

“We talked about expression, and to some degree about freedom of expression and with that freedom how can we mindfully express ourselves.”

“At the beginning my students were not that comfortable with the idea of interpretive dance. And in the end, they really liked it.”

“A lot of my students really enjoyed working with an artist. For them it’s something great…so I’m very glad they were exposed to that universe.”


Stephen Lerch, Grade 4/5 English Program Teacher

“This is the first time that our two classes have worked together…” on the collaborative approach to the Biennale project


Lourdes Meza, Kindergarten French Immersion Teacher

“My students are very creative and they’re very hands on. And they’re very imaginative. It’s mainly a social-emotional learning year…so my students’ biggest growth has been how they’re able to regulate themselves during their play.“


Bina Desai, Grade 1 English Program Teacher

“I wanted them to not react but to really interact and be mindful about each other’s feelings and how they can handle that kind of interaction.”

“I think the fact that the community is involved in this…I think that its a great project for community spirit.”


Cristina Fogale, Grade 10 French Immersion Teacher

“Being with that younger age group really gave them a sense of maturity and responsibility.” (On collaborating with the grade 2-3 class from Henry Hudson)


Gabriela Novotny (Gr. 2/3 French Immersion Teacher)

“…and then to be in the classroom with these big kids who are speaking French was one of those gems of an experience.” (On collaborating with the grade 10 class from Kitsilano)



Brendan McLeod, Spoken Word Artist

“By creatively exploring the idea of mindful expression of their emotions, the students were able to explore, discuss, and share discoveries about their emotions and how they affect themselves and others. Most importantly, they were encouraged to take ownership of these ideas and articulate them to a broad audience. In so doing, they gain an increased sense of self-esteem and understanding that is invaluable in all other facets of their education. The interdisciplinary aspect of the learning – incorporating dance, visual art, and poetry – reinforces the notion of a multifaceted self, in which body and mind are equally important and there are various strategies for tackling problems.”


Lorraine White-Wilkinson, Dance Artist:

“The process moved at a faster pace than I had hoped at the beginning. I would have rather had a few extra days with the kids just to give them a baseline of dance experiences from which to draw. I found that the focus of the performance overtook much of the experiential process, and as a result, although the process and product was incredible in the end, it could have been a much deeper experience had we had the time to move slower. I struggled with keeping the focus of our experience on ‘being mindful’, and yet were tied to a schedule that required (as a result of a performance) us to rush. In looking back on the experience, I appreciate the intricate webs that were created between artists, teachers and students – and am amazed how a committed group of people can perform/create/guide under the pressures of time and uncertainty. And with an attitude of respect and an openness to welcome what unfolded, the collaborations created a sense of bonding and communal intent, resulting in an experience that hopefully will live on in the lives of many. Mindfulness is about noticing: so noticing, stopping, what is it I’m noticing, where can I take my next steps after noticing. And its by getting children to notice, and to be fully wide awake, it opens the door for curiosity, association, and creative thought.”


Donna Sheh, Visual Art Artist

“Drawing on their experiences with various emotions allows students time for reflecting and validating feelings that they may have had. This visual response and layering deepens ideas, relationships, and insight into their perceptions and towards mindful behaviour. The collaborative process does bring out the best in people.”



“I’m going to be a dancer so this project was really fun” – Stephanie, Grade 2.

“This has been the best group work all year. In other groups, we didn’t get along all the time. But this one we did” – Ava, Grade 3.

“I liked the art the best” – Robin, Grade 2.

“I really like when you could do it by yourself stamping the thing.” – A grade one student on Printmaking

“I felt working with a bunch of a very talented artists in different ways was a great experience for everyone who participated.” – Older elementary student

“To mindfully move your body is to think about every part of your body as you move it.” – Sophie, Grade 3.

“You can express your feeling with your body; you don’t have to use your words.” – Iman, Grade 2

“If something stressful is happening help the environment and everyone around you by not freaking out man.” – Eddie, Grade 6

“It taught me to be mindful of others and to care about everyone and not just jump to conclusions…” – Nicky, Grade 6