Queen Alexandra Gr 6/7
Arts Education, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies
Queen Alexandra Elementary, Vancouver, BC
Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition
Vancouver Biennale 2009 – 2011 Exhibition: Freezing Water #7 (Ren Jun, China) – Students discussed the sculpture’s materials, how it changes the environment around it and what happens when you take a different perspective in viewing the sculpture.
The curatorial theme of the 2014-2016 exhibition is Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver [hyper link]. This project relates to the Exhibition Theme in many ways:
• Crosses boundaries as students learn about the experiences of people around the world
• Creates a crossroads of understanding and communication as students share their learning and engage in dialogue with their community by presenting their play
• Crosses boundaries as arts activities are used to learn about social studies, science and for students to learn more about their peers and history
Other Sources of Inspiration
• The Blower’s Daughter Song by Damian Rice –
• Colonial Matters Mini Documentary: YouthMADE slam poetry performance and documentary film
Reflecting on the importance of change, students inquired into how matter changes form, how people change as they grow and how culture changes through time. After learning about molecular change and interactions in Science, students reflected on artist materials and perspectives at a field trip to Freezing Water #7. Furthering their inquiry into change, students learned about and debated significant changes and events in Canadian history and current events such as colonization, immigration, the multiculturalism act and residential schools. Reflecting on how they could become agents of change in the world, students wrote a play addressing immigration, residential schools and mental illness. Using spoken word poetry, music and visuals students presented their play to the community in multiple performances to speak out about their chosen topics, opening up a dialogue with their community in order to help change perspectives.
How do matter and culture change? Why do changes matter? How can young people be agents of change?
Arts Education: Students learned how to incorporate visuals and music to help tell a narrative and evoke different emotions during their play.
Science: Students learned about how matter changes from a solid, to liquid to gas and why these change take place.
Language Arts: Students collaboratively wrote spoken word poems, song lyrics and a play about issues and events that affect their community.
Socials: Students learned about residential schools, the importance of immigrants in Canada’s history, the multiculturalism act and current events.
Changes in Matter and the Shape of the Earth
Students began with a science unit on how matter changes form and how the encounter between particles causes different reactions. Students inquired into how the earth is changed by different factors such as volcanoes, wind and water. Furthering their inquiry into change, students went on a field trip to Freezing Water #7 and discussed the materials used by the artist and how we transform materials from the earth through chemical processes so that they look unnatural. Students then reflected on how the sculpture changed the environment around it, exploring perspective and how things can change depending on your stance and where we view things from.
Changes in Culture and Immigration
Students took their learning about change at the molecular level and expanded it to interactions between cultures; learning and discussing how ancient cultures reacted to one another through colonization, immigration and sharing cultures. Students then inquired into the changes and interactions between cultures and smaller sub-groups in a global and national sphere, doing role-plays and conducting debates on current issues. Students represented different countries, one in crisis the other negotiating how many refugees they could take into their country and why. The students then collected stories from refugees through the UN refugee website and explored immigration to Canada by conducting interviews with their families on how they arrived in Vancouver. In social studies, students learnt about the importance of immigrants in Canada’s history and the effects of colonization on aboriginal communities.
Reactions to “the Other” and Personal Histories
During their exploration of Canada’s history, students explored the concept of “the Other” and how we view and interact with people we feel are different in personal and global contexts. Students reflected on the stigmas of mental illness and homelessness, writing poetry from other people’s perspectives in order to learn more about them. Students conducted case studies on different individuals, reading about their experiences from birth until adolescence. They then wrote poetry about how that individual might feel at age 15 and how their experiences would have changed them as a person. With help from Learning Through the Arts, elder Mary Jane Joe shared her experience going to a residential school, talking about how her name was taken away from her and replaced by a number. Students created art about the history of their name, reflecting on their personal identity and family history. Mary Jane Joe took students through a goal setting process, sharing her knowledge of a coming of age ceremony by asking students to reflect on what they are letting go of as they move into the transition to high school.
Creating Change through Art
In an effort to enact change in other’s perspectives and understanding, students worked collaboratively to write a script about social issues relevant to their community. Students broke into three groups to focus on different inquiry subjects: immigration, residential schools and mental illness. Students drew from their learning, interviews, Mary Jane Joe’s stories and their own research to perform scenes to convey the experiences of immigrants, refugees, students in residential schools and children of parents with mental illness. All groups worked with their artist to create music and visuals to incorporate into their performance, reflecting on the emotions and inner thoughts of many of the characters. In doing so, they discussed changes in their society, the meaning and importance of reconciliation and learnt about current events pertaining to their different inquiry subjects. Students wrote lyrics and spoken word pieces about the strength of individuals faced with discrimination and celebrating the survival of aboriginal people and culture in the present day. The play, Secrets and Lies, Burgers and Fries was performed for their school and community at Vancouver Technical High School theatre. After each performance, students held a Q&A session to address questions and to share more about their learning.
• A play titled Secrets and Lies, Burgers and Fries
• Spoken word poetry
• Song lyrics to the tune of The Blower’s Daughter
• Visuals and music for the play
• Name sculptures
• Written poetry about how we view others and how others view us
Students performed their play for their peers hoping to challenge how they see people around them and to speak out about mental illness, immigration, residential schools and other forms of social bullying.
January – April
• Science unit on matter, molecules, particles and the forming of the Earth
• Field trip to Freezing Water #7
• Lessons about ancient cultures
• Discussion on how our interactions on Facebook can be seen as different molecules interacting
• Debates on role playing about current issues
• Lessons on multi-culturalism, immigration, colonization Canadian history
• Interviews with family members about their journey to Vancouver
• Discussions and poetry exercises about the other and personal interactions with others
• Mary Jane Joe shares stories about residential school experience
• Art exercise learning the significance of their name
• Goal setting and coming of age ceremony with Mary Jane Joe
• Script writing and research
May – June
• Workshop with artist to brainstorm ideas for visuals and music with the play
• Slam poetry workshop and discussion about reconciliation
• Creation of electronic music and visuals for the play
• Performances at Van Tech