Walter Moberly Gr 4/5
Arts Education, Language Arts, Physical Education, Social Studies
Walter Moberly Elementary School, Vancouver, BC
Dana Yayoi Soga
Sources of Inspiration:
Vancouver Biennale Legacy: Walking Figures at Canada Line City Hall Station
Vancouver Skytrain Transit System
Students began their exploration of Making Connections of human body and communities when they visited the Walking Figures. They contemplated bodies in motion juxtaposed with the nearby Canada Line City Hall Station, where the Skytrain moves people and connects different parts of the city, much like how our body connects various parts and produce life. The students associated the feeling of being anonymous with the Walking Figures and their experience on the transit system. They further inquired into the feeling unknown by others and not knowing through practicing neutrality and use of faceless masks. The students engaged in a creative way to learn about parts and functions of the human body by practicing how to give ‘life’ to their Bunraku style paper puppets.
How are our body parts connected? How are we connected with our community? Are we connected when we feel anonymous?
Science, Arts Education – Drama, Visual Arts, Physical Education, Language Arts, Social Responsibility, Technology
Students shared their insights on the human body with a projected image of the Walking Figures, the armless, headless, and anonymous figures as bodies in motion. With the sculpture located next to the transit station, the students compared the map of the city to the inside of the body. The students wore faceless masks on the transit en route the sculpture as an inquiry challenge on how commuters move and connect anonymously through the system. The students furthered their inquiry process through making and manipulating puppets from crumpled up brown paper. They experimented with posture changes, walking styles working with different body parts. The students’ exploration culminated in a multi-media performance that incorporates a connected web of concepts: human body system to the transit system, inclusivity and exclusivity to individuality and neutrality.
Guided by their teacher and puppeteer, students experimented with puppetry, movement, video and projection to illustrate how body systems, transit systems, cities and people make connections. The title, The Living Anonymous, originated from the students’ observations of the anonymity of public transit, inspired by their experience on the Skytrain and by the armless, headless Walking Figure. The show was performed at the community centre for fellow students, parents, and the public.
Students shared their learning process through their performance of The Living Anonymous in their community.
- Shared insights on human body and the Walking Figures
- Explored movement in games, practicing mirroring, viewpoints to express space, shape, time, emotion, movement, and story, walking styles and tableaus
- Introduction to Paper Bunraku style and shadow puppetry
- Travelled to the Walking Figures site
- Explored ‘the anonymous’ with neutral masks on the Skytrain
- Discussed observations of sculptures
- Experimented with Viewpoints on site
- Connecting to the Big Idea
- Applied story and image ideas through exploration of Bunraku style paper puppets
- Created and finalized story
- Researched sound/music
- Explored use of overhead projection, shadows, and puppet making
- Created puppets and other props
- Rehearsal practice
First and foremost, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the Biennale for gifting me and my class with the amazing opportunity to work with MACC Artist-In-Residence, Miss Maggie Winston. The knowledge gained through this hands-on experience will be lifelong and will hopefully foster a greater appreciation for the arts as well as cross-curricular learning.
I have not had to write a reflection since university (almost 20 years ago!) and am having some difficulty finding the right words to express how much I have grown as an educator and individual. As a first-timer I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the program and to be completely honest, found it hard to wrap my head around the “cross-curricular” aspect of the whole thing. “How on earth are we going to tie in drama, puppetry, science and social studies? AND, take inspiration from a sculpture?” I wondered. “Don’t worry,” said Katherine Tong as she reassured me. “You’ll be surprised at all the connections we can make!” And, I certainly was!
As we started the process I was in awe at all the connections that we were able to make between puppetry, drama, science and social studies. We connected the human body to puppetry and mapping skills to taking local transit to name just two. Once we got going, we were able to make countless cross-curricular connections – almost too many. I now know that one or two focal ideas are all that are needed to really set the groundwork for the project. I feel that too many connections dilute the process somewhat as there just are not enough sessions to do an in-depth discovery of each concept.
Working with Maggie is in short, awesome. She is talented, organized, creative and really really fun. The students loved their time with Maggie and were sad for it to come to an end. Maggie brought out their best. She never had to raise her voice or ask twice. Her professionalism and love for what she does shine through brightly when she teaches which inevitably creates an atmosphere of safety and comfort. Even the most non-risk taking of students were fully engaged with Maggie by the end.
As for my personal growth as an educator and individual, I found the whole process extremely beneficial and rewarding. I gained a greater appreciation for the arts. Before my experience with Maggie I would most likely have stopped at the Walking Figures for a few minutes and thought to myself, “Hmmm…brown headless statues. Cool.” and then walked away without giving it much more thought. Now, I look at art differently. I have learned to question and wonder. “Who is the artist? What is the message being conveyed? What are the theme(s)?” Simply put, I am inspired and Maggie helped me to get there. Inspiration definitely is a wonderful thing and my future students will only benefit from my newfound knowledge.
Thank you again for the opportunity. I am truly honoured to have been given the opportunity.
I had a lot of support from the teacher in terms of scheduling, availability, documentation, preparation prior to sessions, and conceptual openness.I also had support from the administrators at MACC allowing us to utilize the beautiful space for all of our rehearsals and the performance, which was hugely beneficial. The students were willing and worked well together because of the great dynamic the teacher has with the students, so I was able to explore deep and complex ideas with the students.
This project was a great opportunity for me as an artist. I felt that because we had enough time and planning, we were able to go more in depth than I normally can with school aged kids. This allowed me to explore things I had never explored before as both an artist and a facilitator. I was highly invested in the project and mostly because it was very inspiring. I think the fact that we look at the BIG IDEA right away, really helps to ground the project in conceptual depth and understanding. I also had the chance to have some promotional material made during one of our sessions in which Telus TV community channel filmed a segment on my professional career, featuring me working with the Grade 4/5 students. It also allowed me to better fulfill my role as an Artist-in-Residence at Moberly Arts & Cultural Centre, bringing me closer to members of the community I serve.
What did you learn?
- puppetry: how to make things look more real
- walking in neutral; basic performer’s tool; can be ready to act; always in the present moment; being in focus
- how to be more confident; performed in front of an audience; allowing yourself to be seen by others; takes confidence and bravery
- Working together; new experience working together closely
What did you like about it?
Things were easier because there was someone to work with, enjoyed the different games and activities that Miss Maggie taught us.
BIG IDEA – The moral of our story is that everyone feels anonymous on some level; everyone feels excluded at some point, but just because you do not know someone or you feel unknown by others does not mean you need to be excluded. Everyone can be included. Everyone can be together. Everyone can work together. Everyone is a part of a larger community.