A new initiative underway at West Vancouver's Gleneagles elementary is incorporating the arts into everyday classroom learning.
Approximately 85 students in grades 6 and 7 are participating in the Social Friction Project, an inquiry-based program exploring the concept of friction and the forces that can cause physical and social change, expressed through choreographed dance.
The Social Friction Project follows the success of another initiative undertaken by Gleneagles Grade 6/7 teacher Laura Odegaard with a colleague last year. Thanks to an ArtStarts grant, students explored the concept of identity through the visual arts.
"It was a wonderful project, I absolutely loved working on it. Our whole school is pretty passionate about learning through the arts and arts integration," she says.
With that experience, as well as in response to the new K-9 curriculum for science, social studies and arts education, last May, Odegaard and two fellow 6/7 teachers started collaborating on how to once again put the arts at the core of their learning. "We were interested in looking at dance and how we could integrate some of these other subjects," she says.
Thanks to being awarded another ArtStarts grant, and support from the Gleneagles Parent Advisory Council, the Social Friction Project launched Jan. 12. Three classrooms are involved - one Grade 6 class, and two Grade 6/7 classes.
From a science perspective, the three participating classrooms are looking at the concept of force in motion and studying things like the physics of friction.
From a social studies perspective, they're looking at social friction, including tensions between societies and different historical events that show conflict between people, countries or groups.
Then, they've been further exploring all of what they've learned through dance with the help of West Vancouver dancer and choreographer Troy McLaughlin.
An additional component of the project is the incorporation of aboriginal learning and Squamish Nation's Eagle Song Dancers worked with the students for two days, teaching choreography, as well as offering further insight into their historical and cultural classroom lessons.
The Social Friction Project will culminate with a performance open to the public Friday, Feb. 13 at 1:45 p.m. in the school gym. Each classroom has been tasked with creating its own dance, attempting to tell a story of social friction through original choreography. The three themes being workshopped include: the introduction of a disease into a First Nations village, climate change and the concept of invasion.
As many of the participating students are first time dancers, it's been fantastic to watch them not only rise to the occasion, but excel.
"I think, because it's created by them, they're so into it, they're so engaged. Definitely there are some kids who have dance experience and dance backgrounds, but everyone is getting into it. It's definitely exceeded my expectations," says Odegaard.
In addition to the three dances, the performance will also showcase the project's process through video.