Arts Education - Grade 3

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 Understanding

The arts connect our experiences to the experiences of others.


Guiding Questions

Why is it important for individuals to cooperate and to act independently? How does art foster cooperation in our classroom? Community?


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

•  We, 2008 (Jaume Plensa, Spain) from the Vancouver Biennale 2009 – 2011 Exhibition


Other Resources

New Canadian Kid produced by Green Thumb Theatre


Learning to Learn:

Art Inquiry

Project image of We, 2008 (Jaume Plensa, Spain) and encourage students to explore the art piece 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 (PDF) to guide and capture their ideas and impressions. Customize or create your own Art Inquiry Worksheet as appropriate for your project and class needs.

Ask students to share what they notice about the artwork and write a group statement of what the piece is expressing noting the linguistic symbols in the sculpture. Encourage students to respect and build on one another’s ideas and knowledge.


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 – Languages: How does Jaume Plensa’s work reflect cooperation and independence. How are we ‘interdependent’ in group work? What happens if a chunk of languages were removed from the art piece? What is the role of language in a community? if people within a community do not speak a common language, how is the community affected? What are possible ways people can communicate with each other? Can other forms of communication be considered as language? Share examples on how interdependencies, intrinsic within our environments, call for cooperation resulting in mutual benefits.
•  Common Language: Working in small groups, students agree on a common language and symbol set of choice. Using that language, write an answer to “what is a community?” and spread these words and symbols into the form of We, 2008.


Inquiry Challenges

•  Knot Respectful: In small groups, play the ‘human knot’ activity. On first try, verbal communication is allowed. Then the activity is carried out without talking. Compare the experience. Redo the activity with talking and reflect on the difference.
•  Invisible Ball: Pass an imaginary ball in silence, using body language and eye contact only to communicate until everyone has his/her turn. Reflect on the experience of achieving a common goal as a classroom community.
•  Dance Canon: In small groups, create a group dance to express community. Starting with one student’s move then adding on one student at a time. Reflect on this experience with a discussion on how to build a community.
•  Balancing Act: Standing in a circle and without assistance lifting up one leg as high as possible. Try again by linking hands with each other. Reflect on group vs. individual effort.


Student Creation & Taking Action

Share artistic creations from the Art Education Inquiry. The Dance Canon Challenge can be extended to create a collaborative dance performance with a buddy class to share with the whole school.

Discuss negative interdependence; i.e., where individuals achieve a goal at the expense of others. Take action to correct any identified negative interdependence. Take action to build a culture of positive interdependence and cooperation in the classroom.



•  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

•  Arts Education: Draw from what was learnt through Science and Social Studies and use storytelling to express findings through visual arts, music, dance, drama or photography.
•  Language Arts: Have the class create a classroom zine (a small magazine) on Interdependencies and Cooperation drawing on what they have learnt from Science and Social Studies. With the goal of sharing it with one or more target buddy class(es), the students are empowered to make decisions about which key messages are to be communicated and how. Throughout the creative process, students are to reflect on the collaborative process and its impact on their decision-making and desired outcome.
•  Mathematics:  Working in teams, identify increasing or decreasing patterns of numeric figures over time collected during the Science field trips and study of communities and traditions in Social Studies. Examples include: estimated number of owls relative to mice in a forest in different regions; the number of days of sunshine in an area and the types of plants that grow there; the population size of cities relative to their proximity to specific natural resources. Discuss the cause of these changing patterns. Contrast and compare with other changing patterns with everyday life in school.
•  Science:  Through exploration of natural ecosystems, students inquire into ways in which plants and/or animals are important to other living things and the environment. Field trips to the bee farm, natural zoo, and aquarium are good ways to explore connections and interdependencies within various ecosystems. Challenge the students to identify interdependencies of humans within their communities and the world at large through Social Studies.
•  Social Studies: Look at different indigenous communities through time and how they interacted with the environment around them. What practices and traditions did they develop in response to their environment? Identify interdependency. Did those practices change as they interacted with other cultures? Have students reflect upon their own lives and explore the connection between the choices they make, to where they live and who they are friends with.


Written by: Natasha Chia En Chiang, Erin Coward and Ashleigh Wong, 2013 UBC Elementary School Teacher Candidates

©2013 Vancouver Biennale