Woodward Elementary: Fostering Identity through the Power of Place, Emotions and Relationships

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

School: Woodward Elementary

Teacher: Sharon Baatz, Anne-Marie Fenn and Akiko Murphy

Artist Collaborators: Colette Lisoway

Class: Kindergarten, Grade 3



During this project, the courtyard was used as a setting to help the students learn about themselves and their connections to the world around them.  The students explored how the power of connection to place influenced their emotions and relationships to others.  The project addresses BC’s new social studies curriculum for Kindergarten, Grade Two and Grade Three.  The students considered how rights, roles and responsibilities shape their identity and help them build healthy relationships with others and with the environment.  The students reflected upon how their actions have an impact on others and on the environment.


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition

Giants/Ocean Concrete worksite on Granville Island

Public Furniture/Urban Trees/Spanish Bank (NW Marine Drive, west of East Concession)

Purpose:  To experience the complete contrast in place of the art exhibits and to explore the feelings elicited by the diverse installations and how these effect our relationship to each other and the environment.  (Giants – busy industrial concrete factory versus Public Furniture – a tranquil beach setting interacting with nature)

Overarching teaching: All responses are unique and each response is equally valid and should be respected.



Our identity is fostered through our relationship with others, our connection to place and the feelings inspired through these interactions. (K-3 Socials Studies)


Guiding Questions

How does place inspire feelings of connectedness and a sense of responsibility to our community?

How do our interactions with an environment impact our senses and influence our connection to that environment?


Cross-Curricular Access


Science: Using five senses to explore and make observations about the courtyard and the plants growing and being planted there. What do the plants need to survive?  What changes do we see happening that are connected to seasonal changes?

Language Arts: Create stories and record stories using a variety of materials to help deepen our awareness of self, family, community and place.  Have class discussions about different conditions in the courtyard and different settings in the courtyard.  Use ideas from discussions as springboards for Story Workshop.

Mathematics: Where can we find math in the courtyard? (patterns, number, shapes). How can we use measurement to observe seasonal changes in the courtyard garden?

Grade Two/Three

Science: Find water in our school grounds and discover how it cycles through the environment.  Plant a variety of plants and learn about the life cycle of various plants and animals. Study the ecosystems of some local plants and animals. Learn about the science of making cement cylinders.

Arts Education: Create a variety of art pieces in a variety of media both indoors and outdoors and notice how the surroundings influence choice of materials, themes and feelings about the piece and how creating artwork connects us to others.


Learning Process/Inquiry Challenges/Timeline

Students established a sense of connectedness by determining the needs of users of the space and identifying some of the barriers to using the courtyard and finding solutions to remove or decrease the barriers.

Students learned how indigenous peoples value the well-being of the self, land, spirits and ancestors. A variety of  literature was shared and students learned how to take care of the courtyard throughout the year and how they can respect and care for each other both in the classroom and working together outdoors. The experience of passing on traditions and knowledge orally was explored through learning and sharing stories and role plays in the courtyard. Students were invited to share how the experiences differ when the stories were shared outdoors versus inside the classroom.

Students explored their feelings as they interacted with the courtyard environment as it changed with the seasons and as it transformed when various elements of the project were introduced.

Kindergarten students completed a thinking framework (I see, I think, I wonder) before and after the class collectively made significant changes to the garden beds (weeding, pruning, transplanting and adding new plants). Students helped design and created an installation for the courtyard and investigate questions on How can we make the installation interactive?  Which materials would work well?  How can they be respectful in use of resources in the courtyard?

Grade Three students used the ipads to document how the courtyard changes throughout the year using photos and videos and will create books using the app “Book Creator” to create books called “The Four Seasons of the Courtyard”. Students did a variety of writing forms to express how they felt about the changes they were seeing and what feelings were elicited by the state of the courtyard (e.g. grey and brown of winter vs. bright colours of spring).


Student Creation

Students took ownership of the courtyard by cleaning it up, weeding and planting the beds, organizing materials; and creating an inviting and peaceful atmosphere for all to enjoy.

Students created an interactive Woodward Community Giant in the school courtyard that can be enjoyed by the whole school community including Strong Start. The installation invites interactions with the environment and others.

Students brainstormed about creation of natural furniture for the courtyard area (inspired by the Biennale Public Furniture | Urban Tree installation). Students created a digital book to document their interactions with the courtyard space.