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Students explore connection

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:15 PDT, Fri July 30, 2021

District’s summer fine arts program focuses on connecting and sense of place

Students flexed their creative muscles this summer in the Continuing Education fine arts program.

One of their projects was a self-portrait inspired by the work of artist Chuck Close.

“His work was constructed on an underlying grid of squares,” explains Catherine Ludwig, the school district’s arts administrator who also heads up the summer fine arts program. “Each square is designed into a self-contained miniature abstraction. Our learners used analogous colours to complete their pieces.”

In addition to visual art, students also learned about music, drama, dance and photography. Over just three weeks, the 250 students in Grades 1 though 7 put together a mini musical based on songs by Canadian musician Raffi. The show, Big Beautiful Planet, was another element of the “sense of place” exploration. 

Our (program) theme became the inspiration for the musical. We selected this particular (show) as it spoke to the fragility of our planet and how each of us has a role in helping to take care of its health,” says Ludwig. “Many kids are in their second, third or fourth year within the (fine arts) program.”

While last summer’s program had to run online, this year students were able to be together in-person at Westwind elementary. They were split into smaller groups based on grade, with both morning and afternoon sessions offered.

Ludwig says there was a calmness about the program that made it clear all learners were engaged.

“It was an honour to witness,” she adds. “It was also inspiring to see learners of all diverse abilities so seamlessly integrated.”

The musical was filmed in late July, edited and sent out to families. Afterwards, students shared some thoughts about its important message.

“The musical has taught me to protect our Earth because it has given so much to us,” says Jolie Wang, a Grade 6 student from Anderson elementary.

Hamilton elementary Grade 6 student Alyssa Voglmaier said: “The musical has taught me that we have to go out of our way and do something about problems (on) our Earth, like litter and climate change.”

And Ashley Tse, a Grade 6 student at Thompson elementary, added: “The future of the planet is up to us.”

The fine arts program is one of four summer learning offerings that Richmond Continuing Education put together. The others are the innovation program, exploration program and inspiration program.

In the innovation program, students worked with robotics coding, collaborative storytelling and green screens. Administrator Doug Park, who leads the program, says 19 high school students worked as volunteer leaders to help younger students. 

Park also runs the exploration program, where students built rocket prototypes, explored how tools can be used to make copper bracelets, and learned about Indigenous uses of local plants and trees. He says students demonstrated “enthusiasm and excitement along their learning journey” in the two programs.

The fourth program is the inspiration program, run by administrator April Pikkarainen. It focuses on growing connections and a sense of belonging, as well as social-emotional learning, and is available by invitation to students in Grades 1 through 6. Students learned how to weave, worked on collaborative art and planned healthy meals that they could prepare on their own.

“Students form connections in different ways and through different activities,” says Pikkarainen. “Teachers in the program honour the gifts and needs of the student population, and plan experiences that nurture the whole child.”

Through the district’s summer learning programs, Ludwig says students can dig deeper in areas of interest.

“We aimed to help our learners with an interdisciplinary approach to connect the dots in understanding the relationship of various pieces of learning and genres to form a bigger, more creative picture.”

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