Japan Art Mile

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Image source: Japan Art Mile

Japan Art Mile is a wonderful way to create and collaborate while fostering healthy relationships among students across international borders.  My students helped to create a beautiful mural; half of which was painted in Japan.


Seisa Kokusai High School students created a beautiful mural, sharing some aspects of Japanese culture.

When we received our package from Seisa Kokusai High School at the beginning of January, we were excited… and then a bit nervous!  Their mural painting was absolutely beautiful, and we wanted to make sure that our painting would complement their design.  We snacked on some tasty Japanese treats while we started to plan our composition…


We were so thankful for these lovely gifts!

My students started to brainstorm ideas immediately; we discussed Canadian culture and popular imagery while sketching and making notes.


We began to notice some similar themes amongst all of the ideas in our class.  Once we made these observations, we started to refine our thoughts with a new round of sketches. This process taught us so much about collaboration within our class, and helped us to develop a sensitivity to the thoughts and concerns of other people.


Once the composition was planned, it was time to get to work.  A proper layout was essential for adding details throughout the mural’s creation.

After moving past the hurdle of beginning to paint, we quickly began to appreciate the progress that we were making.  Students selected colours and designs that reflected our culture and traditions, so a sense of ownership developed over the weeks that were spent painting the mural.

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I am so proud of these students.  This was not an easy task, but they were up for the challenge; their work will represent our school when these murals are exhibited at Japan Art Mile’s next display.


When the mural was finished, it was time to select a few treats for our friends at Seisa Kokusai High School.  I found some very special items at our local grocery store as well as  Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay.

While visiting Fort William Historical Park, our mural was displayed one last time before being packaged up for its long journey back to Japan.  Doesn’t it look wonderful?


Congratulations to my students on the completion of your design!  You are fabulous!


.**Note:  before the mural arrived from Japan, we learned about Japanese culture from our friend Kyoko!  Enjoy our slideshow here:  “Kyoko Visited Our Class Today

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TVO on the Road: Thunder Bay

The Agenda is one of the most thought-provoking programs available to TV (and internet) audiences who are intrigued by compelling topics and lively discussions.  Proudly Canadian, The Agenda is produced by TVO, serving our Nations viewers with relevant material that addresses today’s concerns and curiosities.

What a thrill to discover that TVO was taking the show on the road, and two episodes of The Agenda would be filmed in Thunder Bay!  The city is just over an hour’s drive away, so it was an easy decision to plan a weekend around such an exciting event.

Saturday’s topic of Race Relations provided a wonderful opportunity for audience members to benefit from dialogue that challenged stereotypes and assumptions as well as the state of relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in our area.  Some of the issues and comments were understandably uncomfortable, because race relations is an incredibly sensitive matter.  It isn’t always easy to talk about a topic that can spark controversy because there are so many aspects to consider.  It can feel overwhelming to begin traveling down the road to a better understanding of these issues, but we have to start somewhere.  Thankfully, The Agenda provided several opportunities for this journey to begin and continue.


I was mesmerized by those who spoke with such courage and conviction at yesterday’s filming.  A handful of women captured my interest because they have dedicated themselves to creating projects that serve to help others understand issues surrounding social concerns, prompting us to replace flawed conceptions with healthier perspectives.

Samantha Crowe spoke of her experiences, her concerns for friends and family who face difficulties because of stereotypes, and solutions for youth who are willing to discuss methods to resolve problems.  Take the opportunity to learn about Feathers of Hope on Facebook.

FOH checking out @TheAgenda On The Road! Community discussion regarding race relations within Thunder Bay. pic.twitter.com/6rTIxJVpKa

Michelle Derosier is an award-winning filmmaker who was one of three panel guests from yesterday’s discussion.  Her work on the Walk A Mile Film Project was profiled for the audience, providing us with a glimpse into her artistic vision, which helps to shed light on personal stories of struggle, survival and hope.

Walk-A-Mile Film Project Trailer from Thunderstone Pictures on Vimeo.

Several people spoke of the impact of Walking With Our Sisters, a “commemorative art installation to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous Women of Canada and the United States; to acknowledge the grief and torment families of these women continue to suffer; and to raise awareness of this issue and create opportunity for broad community-based dialogue on the issue.” (source: Walking With Our Sisters) 

I can’t wait to find out more about each of these wonderful projects, to help provide more opportunities for my students to learn about diversity and new perspectives.

On another note, I was absolutely thrilled to meet Steve Paikin, host of The Agenda.  His work has already had an impact on my students, and I wanted to be sure to thank him properly.  What better way than to offer some of the best cuisine in Thunder Bay?  :)


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A Model of Thinking

The Arts Curriculum for Ontario has provided educators with two models of thinking that are very helpful for teachers and students.  If we use these models as a foundation on which we build our understanding of course concepts, our learning can be both personal and structured.

All of my classes are becoming more familiar with the Critical Analysis process, because the format helps to guide our thinking while we approach new artworks and art forms.  Yesterday, each of my classes viewed Sergei Polunin’s performance of “Take Me To Church”.  Unlike most art forms that we would analyze in class, this was a ballet piece.  It was interesting to see how helpful the Critical Analysis process could be while approaching a new and unfamiliar form of art.

Sergei Polunin, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle from David LaChapelle Studio on Vimeo.

We are just finishing the second week of this semester, so I didn’t want to overload my students with too many concepts all at once.  Instead, we focused on our Initial Reactions to the video.

critical analysis

Here are some of my students initial reactions:

“Is he naked??”

“What does it mean, and why that song?”

“What was the story?”

“This is interpretive dance as, a guess, which has emotional meaning to it.  The movement suggests deeper pain behind the dance”

“My questions is ‘why would he be wearing a nude colour, does it have deeper meaning?'”

“When he danced it seemed kind of emotional for him, the way his facial expressions were (grabbing his head)”

“The setting, lighting, and music felt like they formed together.”

“This dance evokes the really sad emotional side of me. I also feel that the white made it a lot more dramatized.”

“The movement suggests that he is emotional and puts a lot of emotion and feelings into his dance.”

“This work brought something to mind.  Mainly an idea for a drawing…  I guess a connection I made with him is the liking of movement, him in actual life, me in drawing.”

“Why is it ballet dancing and not some other form of dancing?”

“Guys can rock ballet.”

“What exactly is it supposed to represent?”

“It was very well done, but it didn’t interest me.”

“How long did the dance take to make and learn?  …and what’s the story behind the dance?”

“I realized that you can tell that the song/dance means something to him.”

“The story being told seems very heartbreaking and sad.  I wonder what the actual story is.”

“This work reminds me of someone struggling.”

“The guy seemed so strong, brave and classy.”

“My first impression of this work is that it shows an inner fight and is exhibited through dance.  This work evokes empathy for the struggle, beauty for the dance, and loneliness for the context.”

“It puzzles me not knowing why he is showing such pain and why he seems so emotional.”

“[The dance] suggests to me that he is alone and there is no one to help him and his troubles.”

“This work evokes emotions and made me feel weird and uncomfortable, but it is still pretty amazing, the way he was dancing.”

“Why did the man not have a shirt on?”

“Watching this, I realized that the man dancing is obviously very passionate about dancing, like a painter when they paint or a singer when they sing.”

“What was the message he was trying to send?”

“What is going through his mind during this time?”

“The dancer is trying to prove a point with his moves.”

“It’s very dramatic.  It’s dramatic because of the music and how he is dancing.  He’s expressing himself and his emotions throughout his dancing.”

“It was like Footloose in the woods.”

“Why are so many artists doing music videos with one ballet dancer in one empty, white room?”

“This work brings the movie ‘Footloose’ to mind because he is dancing in a warehouse place by himself.”

Today, my students will read through all of our initial reactions.  I hope they begin to see how other students think, and that there are many ways to observe and appreciate art.  I also hope that they feel confident that their thoughts are very valid.



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Moving Beyond the Elements and Principles in #ArtsEd

Olivia Gude’s publication, “Postmodern Principles: in Search of 21st Century Art Education” has often been an invaluable resource as I strive to restructure the opportunities for learning in my classroom.  Any art educator will be familiar with the Elements and Principles, but not many will admit to feeling confined by their use as the pillars of creation and analysis of art.  I’m not saying that they have a negative impact on art education, but if we limit ourselves to understanding art through the lens of Modernist design, we are clipping our own wings.

In 2013, I explored the principle of recontextualization through the use of Vine.  This year, my senior students will be encouraged to play with the app, along with other forms of media that provide more freedom of expression.  When I think of Postmodern principles such as layeringinteraction of text & imagejuxtaposition, and appropriation, I wonder about the endless possibilities for artworks that students can create by taking advantage of new possibilities found through thematic work coupled with choice of media.

Today, I learned about Zeega, an online tool that allows you to combine a variety of media (gifs, images, music) to create your own artwork.  These visual remixes allow the user to form new meaning by appropriating material that is free to play with.

I wonder what kinds of stories my students will tell?

Related information:  Amy Burvall


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Making Thinking Visible, Part 1

Last week, my Principal introduced the staff to Making Thinking Visible, a book by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison.  I’ve only just finished the first chapter, but wanted to share my thoughts bit by bit to help keep things clear.


Thinking is a term that we use to encourage students along the learning process, but do we really understand what is meant by thinking?  The authors make a point of analyzing, or unpacking thinking, making distinctions between its traits as well as those of learning and understanding.


What kinds of thinking do you value and want to promote in your classroom?

The authors strive to build an awareness for educators; one that helps us dig much deeper into the purpose of our lesson planning and daily activities.  When I read the types of thinking that were integral to understanding, I thought about the connections between their list and the critical analysis process that is used in my art classes.  You may also see similarities to your own curriculum:

  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions

By being clearer in our own minds as teachers about the kinds of thinking we want our students to do, we can be more effective in our instructional planning. (p.15)

While browsing through blog posts over the past few days, I happened to spot a few reflections related to this topic.  Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen are two of the nicest people you’ll meet, and they are absolutely brilliant.  Take a peek at Brenda’s post, “Making Thinking Visible — Getting Started With Routines“, and Peter’s post, “Knowledge Building:  What is it Really?



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An Interview with Roy MacGregor

My grade 9 #NipRockArt students were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Roy MacGregor today via Skype.  The class is busy working on their culminating assignment as semester one draws to a close, and his research has helped our class understand the mystery surrounding the death of Tom Thomson.  We began by watching his interview with Steve Paikin on The Agenda:

After watching the video, we discussed some of the main ideas and thought of questions we would like to pass along to Mr. MacGregor.  At this point, we didn’t know that we would have the chance to speak with him, so our written notes came in extra-handy during our discussion!


We encountered a few technical glitches that threatened to affect the success of our call, but managed to work past the issues and eventually found a way to get both the audio and video working together.  At one point, we thought we might have to use my iPhone for our entire chat… I’m so glad this didn’t have to happen!

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To top it all off, we were interviewed on CBC radio!  If you would like to listen, please click *here*.

The grade 9 art class and I would like to thank Roy MacGregor for sharing his time with us today! 



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Ice Photography Along the North Shore of Lake Superior

Today’s trek to Terrace Bay and Rossport involved a series of stops on the side of the highway to run through snow until I got to the lakeshore. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much snow, but some beautiful ice images to capture…






"Ice shells"... dainty rock coverings that had fallen off of their molds, leaving fragile natural sculptures.

“Ice shells”… dainty rock coverings that had fallen off of their molds, leaving fragile natural sculptures.


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