Rhythm in Our Lives

Arts Education - Grade 4

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

Artists’ choices of elements, arrangement, and other aesthetic decisions evoke different responses.


Guiding Questions

Can we identify rhythmic patterns with our thoughts and feelings? How does pattern in different art forms facilitate expression?


Mind Opening

Choose or devise practices to encourage students open up 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
Olas de Viento/Wind Waves (Yvonne Domenge, Mexico) of Vancouver Biennale 2009 – 2011 Exhibition.


Other Resources

National Film Board: The Voyageurs

Foli by Thomas Roebers


Learning to Learn:

Art Inquiry

Project images of Wind Waves and encourage students to explore at different angles individually and in groups online. 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.


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 – Patterns in Life: Observe images of Wind Waves online and ask students to identify patterns and reflect on what the patterns remind them of. Show other works by the artist and facilitate similar discussions. Expand the idea of patterns to everyday life such as fashion, nature, school, etc. How does pattern in these different art forms facilitate expression? Record these responses for later reference.


Inquiry Challenges

• Patterns Investigation: In small groups, challenge students to create a dance to a piece of music. Video the movements and review for patterns. Explore the emotions and messages associate with the movements/patterns.
• Visual Rhythm: Create and play a sound clip in Audacity (any sound program that shows sound waves in visual form). Discuss how pitches are associated with wavelengths. Play clips of a variety of instruments from different countries. Ask students to draw and reflect on the visual sound waves for each clip.
• Creating Sound: Referring to the visual patterns of Wind Waves, ask the students to imagine the musical sound and rhythm then draw them in the form of sound waves. Compare to the world music clips from the Visual Rhythm Challenge.
• Drumming and Pitch: Challenge students to make as many different sounds as they can with a variety of drums or percussion instrument. Have the students talk about how different sounds make them feel differently.
• Making Percussion Instruments: Watch a Stomp Out Loud video and identify the materials used in creating the instruments. Ask students to think about their favourite sound and bring materials such as wood blocks, cups, rice, buckets, sticks, etc. from home to create percussion instruments. Reflect on the process and products.
• Rhythm of Cooperation: Ask students to talk about cooperation at home and in the classroom. Ask students if the visual elements of Wind Waves in any ways represent cooperation and how. View part of the film on Voyageurs of Canada. Discuss the canoe journey the Voyageurs took to trade fur. Discuss the importance of music and rhythm during the journey. Bring up other examples such as the work song of the seven dwarfs, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Challenge students to create their songs (encourage use of world music) for use during classroom clean-up time. Reflect on how different songs affect the work?
• Creating the Rhythm of School Life: Show students the video Foli (There is No Movement Without Rhythm). Ask students to share their rhythm in their daily lives. Challenge the students to make their own sound clips or videos to capture the rhythm of their school life. Challenge activity: add rhythm of cooperation and reflect.


Student Creation and Taking Action

Create a space (e.g. school assembly) for the students to share their sound clips and videos during their Rhythm of School Life Challenge. Encourage the students to express how the rhythm represents the voices of the school community.

Encourage students to create their own Rhythm of Cooperation using their choice of expression and use it in school, at home and where appropriate.



• 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

• Mathematics – Patterns and Relations: In small groups, create a secret pattern using parts of the bodies and/or clothing and record the pattern in table and chart formats on poster board. Order the group members in accordance to the pattern and have the class guess the pattern. Students then present their chart and share the message the chart conveys about the pattern.
Physical Education – Active Living: In small groups, challenge students to create a workout routine following a rhythm using hoops, balls, mats etc. and share the created routine with class. After each presentation, ask each team to check and their heart rates. Discuss with the class the relationship of rhythm of the heart and level of physical activities.
Science: Earth and Space – Weather: Develop a class chart to track various characteristics of daily weather. Discuss any patterns that emerge weekly/monthly. Ask students to present the patterns that have emerged through their choice of expression (music, movement, writing or drawing). Challenge activities: Track the weather for other parts of the world and compare. Discuss the impact of weather in the parts of the world on our lives. Expand the discussion into transportation, food chain, migration and ecosystem.
Science – Sound: Set up multiple stations for student exploration.

  1. (Sound Board) Chicken in a Cup – Click here for details.
  2. (Sound Causes Vibration) Dancing Salt – Click here for details. 
  3. (Sound Waves Travel) Spoon and String – Click here for details.
  4. (Sound Waves and Vibration) String Telephone Click here for details.

Changing Your Voice: Students cup their right ear and the left side of their mouth and produce sound. Students place a hand on their vocal chords and note any changes in their voice.
Scientist Role Play: Ask students to come up with a theory about sound based on one of the experiments and what they have observed. Ask the students to describe what they have seen, what they think is happening, and what patterns they observed and name their theory.
Social Studies – Human and Physical Environment: Ask students to review the salmon population in BC over the past 50 years and present the trend. Discuss the importance of salmon to First Nations and Canadians. Identify patterns in the life cycle of salmon and relate the population trend to any changes in the patterns. How have these changes impacted the life patterns of First Nations people? Students can initiate actions by identifying changes they can make to in their personal lives to save the salmon.


Written by: Anna Boots and Julie Karpiuk, 2013 UBC Elementary School Teacher Candidates

©2013 Vancouver Biennale