School Name: Wellington Secondary School
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members:Michele Ney: firstname.lastname@example.org, Holly Olsen-Leaf: email@example.com, Niki Wedholm: firstname.lastname@example.org, Nicol Suhr: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: AESN (focus on Indigenous learners or Indigenous understandings)
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education
Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus was to investigate how creating land based art works with first nations influences foster collaboration and reflection in art classes and across the school community.
Scanning: Wellington Secondary underwent a significant seismic upgrade recently, and is now in the process of updating student artwork in the main entryway and presentation rooms. With Wellington’s close proximity to the traditional winter harbour of Departure Bay in Nanaimo, and SD 68’s district focus of reconciliation, we are aware of how the local landscape and First Nations need to be reflected in our building. We are curious how creating large mosaic panels depicting local landscapes, as well as a canoe will impact the conversations, relationships, and awareness of our aboriginal students and their peers. We are also curious as to how these panels, once displayed, will foster awareness of First Peoples Principles of Learning throughout the Wellington community, including outside stakeholders and parents.
1. Learners at the center: The learning environment recognizes the learners as its core participants, encourages their active engagement and develops in them an understanding of their own activity as learners.
We saw that our building is representative of our learning as well as our physical connection to place. We wanted to celebrate our natural connection, our first nations connections and our historical connections together in our building entryway. We wanted to have several classes working together collaboratively, as well as several teachers involved.
2. The social nature of learning: The learning environment is founded on the social nature of learning and actively encourages well-organized co-operative learning.
We wish the activity to be experiential in nature, designed by the students, working across different classes to produce a product that is for the school as a whole.
3. Emotions are integral to learning: The learning professionals within the learning environment are highly attuned to the learners’ motivations and the key role of emotions in achievement.
We recognize that undertaking a project like this pushes students beyond their regular bounds. As a result, we recognize that additional stress may be experienced, as well as frustration and insecurity around the process of collaboration. These emotions may also be experienced by the learning professionals on the project. However, upon completion of the project, it was shared collectively that the euphoria of completion and achievement more than countered the earlier tensions experienced.
4. Recognizing individual differences: The learning environment is acutely sensitive to the individual differences among the learners in it, including their prior knowledge.
Each student was invited to design and create a tile for the mosaic. These tiles demanded collaboration and yet individual expression. None of the students involved had ever created tile mosaics prior.
5. Stretching all students: The learning environment devises programs that demand hard work and challenge from all but without excessive overload.
This project stretched the students and teachers involved. All of them felt this was an ambitious project, and demanded more from them than in previous experiences. None of them had attempted a cross-classroom collaboration before, nor had involved First Nations collaboration, nor had any of the students worked with tile mosaics or First Nations art before.
6. Assessment for learning: The learning environment operates with clarity of expectations using assessment strategies consistent with these expectations; there is a strong emphasis on formative feedback to support learning.
This entire project demanded continual constructive feedback in order to ensure the tiles were crafted properly and aligned with the final product goal.
7. Building horizontal connections: The learning environment strongly promotes “horizontal connectedness” across areas of knowledge and subjects as well as to the community and wider world.
The horizontal connections in this project are primarily focused on the wider world, including the National Art Gallery, local community elders, and the larger school community.
Focus: The focus of our inquiry is two fold. The first is to work with the students to create the artwork itself. This process will not only increase the awareness of the winter harbour and local landscapes, but also will invite local elders and artists in to assist students with their understanding of representing the land in their artwork in an appropriate and beautiful way. Secondly, we wish to examine how the display of such artwork creates awareness of First Peoples Principles of Learning and local land throughout our extended community.
Hunch: The practices here at the school exhibit the “silo effect” that is indicative of 20th century pedagogy. Both students and learning professionals held little imagination or risk taking as a possibility for working beyond the scope of the four walls of the art classroom. “Learning happens when students are quiet and sitting at their desks in the classroom”, is a prevailing cultural belief.
In order to expand the learning experiences of both student and learning professional, and create greater possibility of 21st century pedagogy, including risk taking, collaboration, and creating real-world experiences, we wanted to create a project that pushed the boundaries for both the students and the learning professionals.
Finally, while there is significant artwork displayed in the building, there is very little aboriginal artwork, or place-based artwork in the building. Given the historical significance of the local area (ie. Departure Bay) to First Nations in the area, it was felt that the poor representation of First Nations art and place-based art did not promote First Peoples Principles of Learning nor Reconciliation within the learning community and surrounding area.
New Professional Learning: Firstly, the concept of an Inquiry, using the Spiral of Inquiry, complete with the district sharing, collaboration, and concluding celebration of learning, was an area of new learning. The learning professional at the center of the inquiry was resistant to participating in any of the documentation for the project. However, being open to support from a colleague around the documentation, as well as the prompting to reflection, the teacher participated. At the culmination of the project, the teacher shared the process was very helpful to her practice, inspiring to see what transpired for the students, and how the process of cross-class collaboration enhanced the learning experiences for the students.
Secondly, the process of setting an ambitious two-classroom goal with collaboration of the aboriginal education support teacher, pushing through to completion was an area of new learning for the learning professional in the classroom.
Finally, the idea of using webinars for global connections, and then intentionally seeking student feedback was a new area of learning for the classroom learning professional. The National Art Gallery was a very helpful resource for this.
Taking Action: Using three classes of Art 11/12, one in the first semester and two in the second semester, working with two teachers (one of whom was working at a different school second semester), envision, design, and create two 8 foot by 2 foot clay tiled panels. These are to be mounted in the main entry of the school.
Students participated in a National Art Gallery Webinar around First Nations Art, and consulted with a local artist from the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
The process of communicating between classes around design, form, structure, and decision making was an ongoing learning process, as well as the logistical process of ensuring all materials were ready in a timely manner.
Checking: • Supporting each other: emotionally and practically (ie. Administration, facilities, technology)
• Sharing/collaborating discoveries and technologies
• Creating open spaces and times for honest and non-judgemental reflections; insight and deeper appreciation for indigenous cultures and their art
• All the many techniques and learning with clay to make a mosaic tile artwork
The baseline information we used included reflections of the students at the beginning of the project, after the National Art Gallery webinar, and at the conclusion of the project. By the end of the project, reflections showed a greater belief in the power of collaboration, an appreciation of outside sources of inspiration, a desire to explore further tile work inspired by First Nations Art, and a curiosity about social influences and connections to other disciplines, such as social justice.
“What I gained from this experience was the opportunity to witness a group of committed students stepping up to the plate with an incredible challenge. Working together, supporting one another in ways that quite surprised me for a common goal when not truly certain how successful the outcome would be until the very end – with all pieces fired, collated and mounted.”
• Create a tile mosaic of a totem or carving
• Continue indigenous theme installing art outside
• Working with other areas of the school for indigenous art (ie. Collaboration spaces)
• Continue to utilize inquiry as a method for driving innovation and reflection of practice
• Develop stronger connections with outside community, including elders
• Develop regular focus group conversations with diverse members of our learning community to gain feedback about their experiences, awareness, and queries
Take the risk.
Set the bar high, for yourself and your students.