University Hill Elementary: Reflections Through the Eyes of the Wolf
Arts Education, Social Studies
School: University Hill Elementary, Vancouver
Teacher: Tania Conley and Melody Ludski
Artist Collaborators: Maggie Winston (Montreal)
Class: Grade 5
Inspired by the artwork Untitled (Wolf) by Vik Muniz, a large scale mosaic that represents collaboration and unity, students created a shadow puppet play representing stories inspired by the Musquem First Nation and their interpretations of the inquiry challenges.
Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition
Through the visit to the Vancouver Biennale Untitled (Wolf) by Vik Muniz and learning about the collaborative process Vik Muniz and the Squamish first nation community took to build the artwork, students reflected on the ways they collaborate in their own art making process within the classroom and school community.
This process relates to the Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016 theme of Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver because the more the students learn about their community and the community around them, the less they will feel isolated and closed to others, the more they will able to relate to and respect differences. Because of the cultural diversity of the students at the school, this project gave them the opportunity to share their own cultures as part of a larger community in which First Nations culture is also present.
Connecting with an elder from the Musqeum First Nation to assist in understanding the structure of Musqeum governance, history, and culture.
Collaboration and unity in community and how it relates to Aboriginal governance and their relationship to the environment
- What is the nature of the community within the classroom and within the school? What is the history behind how the school is governed?
- What is the structure in an Aboriginal community? Specifically Musquem First Nation- due to the school being located on Musquem land.
- How do these two systems differ? Or how are they similar?
- How does Aboriginal governance connect community to environment?
Learning Process/Inquiry challenges:
- Lesson concepts: What does community mean? What does it mean in our classroom and school? What does it mean in the larger community? How does collaboration create community and unity? How does this relate to the local first nation community?
- Inquiry activities: Identifying central concepts that can be represented in a theatrical form. Collaborative story telling. Image making. Collage in the puppet making or in the digital image. Connecting with an elder in the Musqeum Nation to gain further cultural understanding.
- Bringing the field trip back to the classroom: What are the first impressions of the art? How does this art inspire new ideas? How do you feel about the art? How do you connect or relate to the art in regards to your own personal experience?
- Art making ideas
- Students listened to stories and made their own story or stories to be represented
- Students made shadow puppets utilizing collage and digital projections (photography) to tell the story that has been collectively made.
- Students created a performance through the art-making process that will be presented in the school setting.
Applying critical thinking skills – including comparing, imagining, inferring, and summarizing concepts
- Arts Education: Responding and reflecting to art in our community. Hands on art making and performing. Using metaphor as a way to understand the real world.
- Social Studies: Identifying the distinct governance structures of local First Nations
- Squamish field trip to visit Biennale land mosaic art Untitled (Wolf) by Muniz. Visit Squamish Elementary student art exhibit to view artistic creations inspired by Muniz artwork.
- Review essential ideas discovered from field trip. Test overhead projector ideas/ techniques. World map exercise. Ideas gathering.
- Portrait taking or drawing on paper/ acetate. Understanding Musqueam government system/ Understanding school government system/ in- School Class culture and environment
- Guest speakers: A speaker from Musqueum first Nation spoke to students about her history and that of the Musqueum people. She also shared Raven tales… One story that focused on keeping a promise and showing integrity. A speaker from the Tsawwassen First Nation spoke founder history and how her nation is only nation in Canada to have official Self government. The speakers provided another perspective and inspiration for their stories using shadow puppetry.
- Writing an expression of the class culture using poetry and symbolism
- Collage building/ Story boarding
- Continue to refine story and message.
- Rehearsal and performance
Artist – Maggie Winston
Over a period of 10 sessions students explored the medium of Shadow Puppetry using an overhead projector. After traveling to Squamish to see Untitled (Wolf) by Vik Muniz students were able to identify these aspects of the artistic process:
1. The image was created in collaboration with the local community of Squamish and therefore became a symbol that reflected the culture and history of that place.
2. The image was made with found natural materials using light and shadow with a digital projector
3. The image was titled Untitled as the intention of the artist so that the audience viewing the art could make their own meanings from it, as opposed to imposing a title or idea. This choice may have been made because of cultural sensitivity.
The facilitating artist, Maggie Winston, and teacher, Tania Conley decided to explore shadow puppetry because it would also be an art form using light and shadow, because it is highly collaborative, and because students would be able to create a story from start to finish. Maggie decided it would be best to let the students choose their own working groups and let them collectively decide on a story and storyboard images. However, each group had to agree on the following and had to include it somewhere in their stories:
1. One scene that was located where the students are. The classroom, the school, or the natural surroundings of the school. Because the school is located on Musqueam land, students had to acknowledge this somehow.
2. One symbol that represented their particular group of artists/puppeteers.
3. One fact or story they knew of aboriginal culture. This was to tie into curriculum and to reflect the first nations origins of “Untitled”
After a storyboard was completed for each group, students began crafting backgrounds and puppets based on their storyboards. This took 3 sessions of intense focus and quick making. Participants within groups quickly realized how well their could or could not work together. Students had to negotiate who was making what and how things were getting made. They also had to discover what images worked and what images didn’t work. Then, after a rehearsal day, students reflected to each other what worked and didn’t work in their performances as well. Could we understand the stories? Could we see the puppets? Could we hear the actors? Because puppetry uses both the visual and the performative, students really had to stretch themselves and were challenged in all sorts of ways. Students learned how to give critical feedback and how to take directions to make the peproblemsrformance better.
A final show was presented to about 4 other classes of younger age. The audience reactions were wonderful and the questions they had for the student artists showed that they had really impressed the younger students. The students were able to see their ideas from start to finish through this project. They realized that this is only a taste of the world of shadow puppetry and of art making in general. They gained an understanding of how much work, collaboration skills, patience, organization and efficiency is required to do something of this magnitude.
I like the puppet show because it let us creates a character that we imagine. We worked well together because we share our idea and put our imagination to life. It was extremely fun when we did our puppet show for some classes. It was like we were real puppet performers. Maggie was best puppet teacher. – Tiffany
It was really a great experience to try this kind of puppet art. I have done Chinese traditional puppets before it is really great like making a story that is different from that. We had some problems along the way but it was really great we figured out that what working like a group really is. I felt like that we were actually having to experience what real artists are doing. Thank you Tania and Maggie.
I liked the field trip and when we performed. I hope that in the future we could do more Biennale projects.