Communication and Collaboration in Nature

Science - Grade 9

This unit of inquiry is not a recipe book but rather a launchpad to inspire new BIG IDEAS. We encourage you to use and/or modify one, or several of the BIG IDEAS below. Adapt it to the grade/ ability level of your students.


Enduring Understandings

Existence and growth depend on connectivity and communication.


Guiding Questions

How do diverse elements communicate and collaborate to nurture positive symbiotic connections?


Mind Opening

Choose or devise practices to encourage students to be open to new experiences and ways of thinking in your classroom. For example, the MindUP in-school program.


Discovery and Inspiration:

Launch the Project

Introduce the Theme: Present the Enduring Understanding and Guiding Questions using vocabulary that is appropriate for your grade level.

About Vancouver Biennale: Play a short video.

Create Project Space: Brainstorm ideas to make the project theme visual and visible using bulletin boards, and/or a project corner to share relevant materials and inquiry questions and processes.

Reference Resources:

Introduction to Sculpture and Public Art Unit Plan for information on how art has evolved over time and the unique experience sculptures and/or public art brings

Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016 Exhibition Theme: Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver

• Growing Connections  (Kaarina Kaikkonen, Finland) from Vancouver Biennale 2009 – 2011 Exhibition


Other Resources

View Cell Division and the Cell Cycle Video. This dramatic video choreographed to powerful music introduces the viewer/student to the wonder and miracle of the cell division and cell cycle. It is designed as a motivational ‘trailer’ to be shown by Biology, Biochemistry and Life Science teachers in middle and high school and college as a visual ‘Introduction’ to this miracle of life.


Learning to Learn:

Art Inquiry

Project image of Growing Connections  (Kaarina Kaikkonen, Finland) and encourage students to explore the art pieces at different angles individually and in groups. This Art Inquiry process enables the students to practice observing, describing, interpreting, and sharing visual information and personal experiences. Use the Art Inquiry Worksheet to guide and capture their ideas and impressions. Customize or create your own Art Inquiry Worksheet as appropriate for your project and class needs.


Shared Insights

Sharing Art Inquiry Experience: Ask students to share the Art Inquiry Worksheet responses in class.

Artist Themes – Research: In small groups students rotate between information stations detailing the artist’s life and work. Station topics include: (1) education and training; (2) lifetime of artwork; (2) materials and processes; (3) beliefs and values. At each station, students answer questions and complete a task. For example, at the station “life’s work” students might plot the artist’s various installations on a map of the world.

Artist Themes – Connections: Viewing Growing Connections and other installations by Kaarina Kaikkonen online, facilitate a discussion on what message does the title Growing Connections convey. Relate how the artist views her work with her past family experience and the connections she may be trying to evoke. Have students discuss how they see her installations address the Guiding Question.


Inquiry Challenges

• True/False: Facilitate discussion on what we already know about reproductive cell division – a game of TRUE and FALSE, with students divided into groups to answer questions about the reproductive cell cycle.

• What makes you who you are? Students create a collage in which they talk about what aspects of their lives make them who they are – what do they ‘get’ from the different relationships in their lives? How do their friends and families add to what makes them who they are.

‘Autogeography’ Journey Map – Cell Division: The miracle of life

Students get into pairs to complete a project that traces the development of a cell. Students map out (visual representation) the journey of a cell in its stages of division in relation to reproduction, i.e. the beginnings of life. Students to explore the significance of information and importance of the exchange and connections of information made within a cell in order for life to exist. Students have the option to express their learning in graphic, cartoon, animated or other forms of visual expression.


Student Creations

Students and teachers decide on medium and methods to communicate their insights on symbiosis. Consider the use of multi-literacies – posters, websites, montages, written essays/poems, film and audio, dance, visual arts or theatre.


Taking Actions

Ask students to select and adapt a performance of a powerful/moving musical (poetry, rap etc.) performance to demonstrate the scientific beginnings of life – cell division. The big idea being the significance and necessity for collaboration and symbiosis of information is an integral and undeniable part of human existence.



• Teacher and students can reflect on their entire learning process by revisiting the Enduring Understanding and relevant Guiding Questions.

• How did the unit of study open inquiry, create cross–curricular learning opportunities and/or apply learning to real life situations? Has this unit of inquiry changed your opinions, values and world view? In what ways, if any, has it helped you grow as a learner?


Ideas for Cross-Curricular Access

• Language Arts and Drama: In true partnership spirit, teachers from the subjects of both English and Drama will come together in order to create collaborative units – script writing and scripted performances.

Dividing students from the English classes into small groups to write a script for a performance for a given topic (‘teen problems in high school’ for example) with a focus on the symbiotic relationships in teenagers’ lives. These scripts will then be handed over the Drama class students to perform these scripts. Students from the English class will be invited to the performances to experience how their written work has been interpreted for the performance.

• Social Studies: The Constitution/ Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms / Levels of Government

In small groups, have students complete a charter of rights and freedoms for their classroom followed by collaborative visual representation and verbal presentation of their classroom constitution. The class teacher is to review and approve the drafted classroom constitution once the students have defended why they think their constitution creates symbiotic relationships in the classroom.

• Physical Education: In small groups, students discuss a theme to respond to the guiding question of connection and collaboration. Students work in group and as a class to collaborate to choreograph a group dance/performance that illustrates the theme and reflect on the process afterward.


Written by: Louise Chan and Natasha Randhawa, 2013 UBC Secondary School Teacher Candidates

Edited by: Jennifer Massoud, Secondary School Teacher

©2013 Vancouver Biennale