Inspiration comes from all sorts of places…connections are made, ideas emerge and a plan of action gets set in motion. A friends is an eco-artist and she recently posted an image of a repurposed roof shingle she used for an art class with students. I quickly made my way over to our local building supply store in Steveston to see what kind of red cedar shingles or shims were available. I bought a huge bundle of cedar shakes for $30.
As part of our QTL storytelling project, many of the classes involved have been learning about local plants and animals and the importance of the cedar tree to local Aboriginal communities. We have also learned that although totem poles are iconic to the northwest coast, the local Musqueam community did not carve totem poles but did have house posts and beams carved from cedar.
I worked with Michelle Hikida and her grade 2&3 class at Diefenbaker to develop this project. We began by introducing the boards to the students the smell of fresh cedar filled the classroom. Connecting to a story Michelle had read the class (Totem Tale by Deb Vanasse), we introduced the idea of a symbol or image that would represent part of a story. The students then created their stories using materials and practiced telling them to each other. Michelle then created a story plan for them to think about the sequence of their stories and what symbols might be important. Then, the students practiced drawing their symbols before painting them on their boards. The students then used their storyboards to retell their stories to each other and to students from other classes.
At our year end sharing session with teachers involved in the QTL project, Michelle brought her students’ story planks and shared the process with other teachers, many who were inspired to try this with their own classes.
We also put out extra cedar shakes and acrylic paints and asked teachers to share their own story of this professional learning experience.