King George Secondary

Arts Education, Geography, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies


King George Secondary, Vancouver, BC



Victoria Wendy Hughes, Vincie Kam, Luke Modder and Matt Sinclair



Pia Massie



30 grades 10-12 cross-curricular students

200 grade 8-10  Science, Tech Immersion and IB MYP students


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition

Vancouver Biennale 2009 – 2011 Exhibition: Freezing Water #7 (Ren Jun, China) – Students considered the way that Freezing Water #7 speaks to issues about water, particularly in the environment in which it is placed.

Vancouver Biennale 2014 – 2016 Artist: Vik Muniz’s documentary Wasteland – Students used his art created with recyclables as inspiration for inquiries into waste and water pollution.

The curatorial theme of the 2014-2016 exhibition is Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver. This project relates to the Exhibition Theme in many ways:

  • Students explored the borderless nature of water, water systems and ocean currents, inquiring into how world events effect local water
  • Students investigated how human society puts borders on water through dams, watersheds and daylighting rivers
  • The project brought together students from different grades and teachers from different subject areas and schools to participate in one project
  • The students were able to share their learning with others schools through participating in a symposium hosted by the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, and the Vancouver Aquarium.

Other Sources of Inspiration

  • Edward Burtynksky’s A Terrible Beauty exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery
  • Documentary Lost Rivers by Caroline Bacle
  • Documentary movie, Watermark by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky
  • Documentary Fractured Land by Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher
  • Documentary Damnation by Ben Knight and Travis Rummel


As part of school wide project, students from different grades and classes inquired into the open border nature of water as it shapes and is shaped by the environment. Exploring the importance of water as a life-sustaining element, students investigated water flow, water purity, water as an energy source and water consumption as it moves across borders of farmland, industry and urban settings. Taking inspiration from Freezing Water #7, Edward Burtynsky’s exhibit, and the water surrounding Vancouver, the inter-disciplinary student team formed connections to the natural world and the ways in which artists explore and represent it by making their own photo essays. Their photographic art creations were used by the other students, including students from Lord Roberts Elementary, to add to their collective research into the water systems. The students then extended their inquiry challenges to other subject areas and furthered their exploration on water and its fundamental place in the world’s ecology building up to a final photo exposition and a sharing session with the public (Aquarium, Vancouver Art Gallery, June Car Free Day, and School Gala) and students from other schools at the Aquarium.



Water is the foundation of life


Guiding Questions

How does water transform and how is it transformed by the environment? How does water define Vancouver? How does water shape our landscape – physical, vegetation, lifestyle? How is water transformed by humans, especially to create energy? What is your Watermark? How does water shape humans, communities, cultures and civilizations? How do world events affect local water – oceans currents have no borders?


Curriculum Access

Arts Education: Students made connections to how artists explore and represent their ideas and attended photography workshops.

Language Arts: Students discussed and explored effective communication styles for the final display.

Geography: Students researched and learnt about plotting the different rivers that used to run throughout Vancouver through a visit to the Vancouver Archives.

Mathematics: Students transformed the scientific research found in their science classes into data to convey meaning.

Science: How is water transformed by humans, especially to create energy? Students studied the algae of lost lagoon, the nature of beaver dams on the environment, the intersection of urban life and the ocean, and the nature of water as it transforms nature and our lifestyle.

Social Studies: Students examined how the physical environment (water) influences social and cultural development in Vancouver.


Learning Process

Thirty students were challenged to document the open border nature of Vancouver’s water through photo journals and an art exposition titled “Water is my Community”.


Beginning with a field trip to Freezing Water #7 and the Vancouver Archives students discussed different water issues that affect them including the man-made land on which the art piece stands. Taking inspiration from Lost Rivers, about the removal and daylighting of rivers, students looked at archives of Vancouver’s hidden rivers and inquired into the push and pull between business needs and nature’s equilibrium. Students were encouraged to take meaningful shots of the water around them at Vanier Park and on their subsequent field trips to a Seymour watershed and the Vancouver Aquarium.


Projects and research done in Science, Art, English and Mathematics continued their inquiry into the Guiding Questions within the respective disciplines and the information gathered there was incorporated into their final exposition. Artist Pia Massie worked with students to mount a photo art exhibit of their work for a Water Symposium organized by the Vancouver Aquarium in collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery inspired by the Edward Burtynsky’s A Terrible Beauty exhibit. The students’ photographs captured their responses to the Guiding Question, “What is your Watermark?” and were mounted in multiple displays to inform their audience about the importance of water as a life-sustaining element and to invoke a call to action in their school and community. The photographic images were presented at the school Gala along with the similarly themed work from classes at King George’s feeder school Lord Roberts Elementary.


Student Creation

Students created photo journals and an Art Exhibit titled Water in my Community/What is your Watermark? to share with their community. The student’s photographic presentation with artist statement was shown to the public at the Vancouver Aquarium, their school the Vancouver Art Gallery and June Car Free Day.


Taking Action

Students shared their photography in Water: Youth Symposium on Art and Ideas bringing together 60 students from 2 high schools and 2 youth programs across the lower mainland and put on by the Vancouver Art Gallery. These photos were also shared with their school and community in order to reflect on their guiding questions and to inform the other classes’ research into water systems and issues.


The students were challenged to think about what they want to share with the public and students from other schools when they visit their display. The students spoke to ideas they plan to pursue for the rest of the year or next year (composting, school garden, recycled art) and talked about how this project-based learning experiences over the last 2 months influenced/shaped their thinking.


Students involved in the project will use the final days of school that are free of classes to work in implementing solutions. It is envisioned that students will devise workable tasks that will promote a better understanding of water systems as the foundation of life.


Time Line


• Introduction to the Symposium and the Vancouver Biennale BIG IDEAS program


• Planning meeting to discuss student participation and the project

• Film screening of Lost Rivers

• Field trip to Freezing Water #7, the Vancouver Archives, Maritime Museum and False Creek Ferries

• Workshop with artist Pia Massie to review photos and discuss photography methods and how to frame a project


• Tour of the Lower Seymour Conservative Reserve

• Vancouver Art Gallery Education Workshop including

• A tour of Edward Burtynsky art exhibit

• Edward Burtynsky artist talk

• Screening of documentary movie, Watermark by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky


• Artist workshop to review photos covering project initiatives and how to shape and layer information within photography

• Field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium with Grade 11 biology class to take project photos

• Preparation for art exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium

• Water: Youth Symposium on Art and Ideas, a sharing and exposition session, with Prince of Wales humanities class at the Vancouver Aquarium

• Photography workshop

• Behind the scene tour

• Students reflected on the project learning experience and their roles in the water cycle

• The student presented their photo project and interacted with the public


• Gala at the school to showcase the photography work as well as projects done by the Grade 9 Biology class

• Photo exhibition and reception at the Vancouver Art Gallery


• Car Free Day – Denman Street – June 5th



Teacher: Victoria Wendy Hughes

“It was a huge collaborative endeavor and I became more open minded as a teacher. Great resources were provided by Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery and support from the Vancouver Biennale BIG IDEAS program. Special thanks to the Vancouver Aquarium for creating the Water Symposium and linking it to the Edward Burtynksky art exhibition.”



The following questions express the thoughts and heightened awareness that influenced the photos the students chose to take and display to the public.

• How do we get our water?

• How can we resourcefully use water for recreation?

• Is there water in my home that I don’t think about?

• How does water relate to our community?

• How is water used?

• Where is the water we cannot see?

• How does water influence us and how do we influence water?

• What brings us our water and what takes our waste away?

• After scrutinizing the development of downtown Vancouver, was it all worth the ecological and sociological costs?

• Why water is sometimes viewed as being “owned” by somebody?

• How does our lifestyle affect the aquatic wildlife that we tend to overlook?

• How and why is water important?

• What would life be like with less or no water at all?

• Why are these “marks” here?

• How big of an impact have we had on our water sources that the outcome is able to be photographed?

• What would happen if salt water wasn’t salty anymore?

• Where does water lead to at the end?

• What happens to all the water that comes into and goes?