Shadows, Strings, and Other Things
“For thousands of years, knowledge holders and storytellers around the world have engaged puppets as a means to dramatize the human experience. Puppets have been delighting, entertaining and educating audiences of all ages, letting our imaginations soar. Puppets are the precious purveyors of our epics, dreams and satires.” - exhibition statement excerpt from the Museum of Anthropology’s Shadows, Strings and Other Things
Inspired by the MOA’s exhibition by the same name, this project worked with the art form of puppetry to create short films that were shared in a puppet film festival. Students began the project by engaging with a variety of puppet types from cultures across the world, including finger puppets, shadow puppets, hand puppets, marionettes, and others. They used puppets to retell stories from Indigenous groups across Canada while learning about the land we are on, the people who first inhabited it, and the relationships people had and continue to have with the land. Then, students selected a puppet form that they enjoyed most and used that style of puppetry to perform original scripts. With the help of our digital artist in residence, we filmed and produced the plays and shared them in an afternoon of puppet film fun!
Nowhere With You
Our school has done it again - an exciting submission for the CBC Canadian Music Class Challenge! This time, we presented Joel Plaskett's "Nowhere With You." 300 students singing and playing together = whole body chills and so much fun! Currently, we have made the top 10 in Category 6!
Magic Happens When...
… you nurture the whole child: body, mind and spirit. Focusing on identified abilities, strengths and talents in a nurturing environment while learning through the Arts prepares students for success in the 21st century. This philosophy guides everything we do at Calgary Arts Academy, but now also acted as a diving board for investigations into all things magical! Over the last few weeks, students worked in two groups to prepare two different performances that were shared with families on the evening of December 6th at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
In one group, the focus was on the ‘magic’ that happens when we dream. Whether it’s in the dreams that come to us at night, or the dreams we have for who we want to be in the future, there is a lot of fun to be had and lessons to be learned when we let our imaginations run free. Audiences saw surrealist imagery and wordplay in this playful, dreamy performance!
In the second group, we investigated the ‘magic’ that happens when we face our fears and step out of our comfort zone. Specifically, we were interested in our fears of the dark, and what it would be like to go to the “deepest darks” of the universe, whether it be high up in space or the greatest depths of the ocean. In this piece, we used light to tell a story about NASA's Voyager's Golden Record.
photos by @jchuphotography for Calgary Arts Academy
One Miserable Day
Life is full of ups and downs, and learning how to deal with these changes is an ongoing process. Through this project we investigated both the macabre and dark as well as the resiliency needed to succeed and even laugh through the tougher times in life. We investigated questions such as “How do people deal with hardship?” and “What are healthy ways of identifying and dealing with negative emotions?” by retelling stories, writing and illustrating our own stories, filming severe weather broadcasts, interpreting immigrant experiences through a variety of art forms, and curating a gallery of all things miserable.
In this project, we did a novel study of the first book from Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and we used this book as a lens to discover strategies for effective character design and storytelling. We also looked at other media portrayals of the unfortunate, and used these as discussion starters as to the ways that different people overcome or even relish in miserable situations. Through these discussions, art projects, and ongoing commitment to mindful practices, students identified strategies for themselves that will assist them in maintaining positive outlooks and strengthened resiliency year-round.
Below is the "raincloud" that we created for our presentation. Lights embedded simulated lightning and rain, while a hidden speaker added the ambient sounds of a thunderstorm. It was a big hit!
Happy Pride Week! Our Year 4/5 students celebrated diversity and showed Belonging by creating a pride-themed sidewalk mural outside our building. All of the drawings and writing are of their own design - we are so proud of the inclusive and supportive community that our students create at school. <3
The Big 3
This year’s showcase took on a new form as we learned about installation art and considered new ways to share and experience art. Through cross-curricular explorations that touched on themes such as measurement, shape and space, weather, electricity, community, and more, we created a collection of installations under the theme of “The Big Three.” The Big Three represent the senses of touch, sight and sound. We asked guests to participate in an immersive journey through a transformed space in order to share our experiences through the lens of human connectivity. Using sculpture and technology, students attempted to entertain and enlighten with our creations, while asking the question, “What sensory experiences activate your Big Three?”
As a visual artist, I'm a little biased... but this was by far my favourite project of the year! Students explored installation art as a type of art, and filled Doherty Hall with installations they made that interacted with the Big 3 senses: Touch, Sound, Sight. From monochromatic portraits that used AR technology to come to life, to an inflatable camping scene with the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors, to a full living room set made of the strangest and most tactile materials we could find, to a basement sound installation where visitors could create their own chords using original sounds, this show had it all. Of course, some of the biggest draws were the sparkling juice and cookie station, and the performance artists who worked out of fortune teller booths and dispensed original poetry based on the senses.
Referring to life in 18th Century Europe, Charles Dickens’ famously opened his novel,
A Tale of Two Cities with the phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of
times…”, and those remarkable and immortal words are what have inspired our new
Learning Contract. Throughout this project, Year 4/5 students immersed themselves
in works of scripted theatre from well-respected works of literature from across many
periods of history. Students learned about Canada’s early history by examining what
was happening at the time their script was first performed. Students were cast in scenes that were either comedic (Best of Times) or tragic (Worst of Times), and had the opportunity to work with peers from other homerooms. Our young actors had classes in acting, text analysis, and theatre history, as well as time to collaboratively rehearse their scenes. We built towards roving performances inspired by the Pageant Wagons of Medieval European theatre. To kick off our work in live theatre performance, we took a field trip to the Knob Hill campus to attend an operatic performance from guest artists. Alongside the development of well-rehearsed and entertaining performances, students had opportunities to enrich their written communication skills, explore the science of chemistry, and examine the nature of fractions. Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Atwood, Samuel Beckett, William Congreve, E. B. White, and L. M. Montgomery were some of the sources of scripts for these students. All scenes described either a "Best of Times" or a "Worst of Times" experience for the characters.
Accompanying our theatre scenes, were block prints made by the students that illustrated a symbol from their scene or something that represents their character. In the last image, I had fun making a demonstration of one of my favourite characters from literature - Luna Lovegood!
Our Own New Library
For this project, we were inspired by a visit to a local library that newly opened near our school. We were excited by the many ways that the library serves the community, beyond being just a collection of books for rental. We talked about libraries as a source of inspiration, a hub for community and connection, and artistic expression. Following our field trip to the library, we decided to turn our own classroom into a library and invite our parents and Year 6-9 students to tour it. Some of the features of our library were: author visits, poetry installation, tour guides and maps, book return escalator, a cafe, music/karaoke station, and more!
One of our favourite displays from this presentation were our collection of diorama boxes, inspired by Canadian artist Soyeon Kim, which illustrated First Nations myths and legends. Students used 2D cut paper to create 3D illustrations, and explored art concepts like foreground/middle ground/background, rule of thirds, and scale.
We won! We took category 7: Passion Prize for being the most passionate performers in Canada. While winning was a great honour, the most excitement came from a surprise visit by the Arkell's to our school who sang their song "People's Champ" with us in our gymnasium! Below is our submission to the competition, as well as a clip of us singing along with the band.
The Exquisite Wild
We were inspired by Maurice Sendak's story Where the Wild Things Are for our main performance at our Winter Celebration this year. We investigated ecosystems, biodiversity, and food chains in relation to Alberta's wetland environments while creating our puppetry/dance performance. Our dance tells the narrative of Max's adventure in Where the Wild Things Are, but focuses on the feelings that he (and many children) feel as they go through the experience of growing up. Karen Oh's beautiful soundtrack from the Spike Lee movie inspired many of our movements and helped tell our version of the story. The exquisite corpse activity also inspired our choreography, and title, of this piece.