Friday 20 November 2015

When Art Meets Life: Connections with the Community

When the world famous Cirque du Soleil arrived in Penticton last spring, they offered the Pen-High senior art program an opportunity to help promote their show Varekai.  Senior art teacher Shauna Reid leapt at the opportunity to provide her students with the authentic challenge of taking on a marketing campaign for a very large production. The students decided to redesign their watercolour unit around the Cirque du Soleil show, and students based their paintings on the characters and costumes involved.

Not only did the students design promotional pictures but they also hosted a media event at Pen-High where both local newspapers, a radio station and Shaw Cable took photos and interviewed the students. The paintings then went to the local mall where they were on display for the week before the show. Reid said the project allowed the kids to learn about several angles of the art business including how to market a show, how to correctly frame professional work and all of the organization it takes to create a display for the general public. It was an exciting but daunting challenge. With any authentic tasks comes the anxiety of attempting something with no guarantees of success. 

When the show actually arrived in Penticton, the art was moved to the local venue (the South Okanagan Events Centre) for the duration of the performances.  The watercolours proved to be a perfect complement for the bright energy and whimsy of the show's themes. In return for all their incredible work, the students received free tickets to the opening night performance. Two students even sold their paintings to the Events Centre and it was a memorable experience for all involved. Some students had never even been in the Centre before. The icing on the cake was when the Cirque company donated all the frames for the artwork which the Pen-hi art program now has available for future shows. 

While the end result was a positive and memorable experience, it required a willingness on the teacher's part to take a risk and make some significant adjustments to previously planned lessons and schedules. Reid did not know that the Cirque offer would happen during the semester, but she found a way to make sure her students did not miss this invaluable opportunity to create art for an authentic purpose and a real audience.

Click on the slideshow below for more examples of student artwork.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

I Love Inquiry

We have started four new inquiry groups this fall under the umbrella of Through a Different Lens: Inclusion, Indigenous Practices, Assessment and Grading, and Literacy.  Most of these groups are K-12.  All of these groups are looking at teacher collaboration through the inquiry process with a focus on teacher practice and also a focus on how our practice effects our learners  who are most at risk of not completing school. We are now in our 5th year of Through of Different Lens.  It has morphed and changed and grown as we have changed and learned.  We have listened very carefully to teachers who have been part of the project, and to the students who are in those classrooms.  We have constantly adjusted and reexamined how we are doing things.
Our overall goals have stayed the same:  How do we remove the barriers to success that many of our vulnerable learners face and capitalize on student strengths by allowing them to choose a method of  both learning and representing that is aligned with their interests, cultural background, talents and strengths.  We continue to focus on engagement and community.
So far this fall, I have had the good fortune of attending four inquiry sessions in the various groups that fall under the TADL umbrella.  I have been struck with what I would say is a real optimism about our kids that have found school difficult, and a real hope for what we as educators can accomplish.

 I have heard comments such as these:
“I can teach ALL learners in my classroom”,
“I can find an entry point for every  one of my students”,
“I am wanting to find ways to help this child while still maintaining his dignity”,
“I want my student to connect with his heritage”
“I want this child to be MEANINGFULLY included”,
 “I want to weave Aboriginal principles throughout the curriculum so ALL my kids learn”,
“I want to assess the exciting things that we are doing in authentic ways”.    
“I want the students to be more involved in assessing their work and learning from it”

I love inquiry.  I love seeing eyes light up as we realize we are not alone in trying to figure things out.  I love when teachers ask if they can be part of more than one inquiry because they are so excited to learn more.  I love listening as teacher share their thinking, their ideas, their time and their concrete examples freely with each other.  This is what learning is all about and where education is such a rich and complex and exciting place to be. 
Submitted by Judith King, Helping Teacher - School Completion