Kindergarten and Grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 students from Griffith Woods, Elbow Park and Chinook Park schools began the school year in a radically different way. They launched into a design challenge of what it means to create public art during the International Play Conference in Calgary and in conjunction with the Beakerhead festival. All groups, with the exception of Kindergarten, who invited an expert to the comfort of their classroom, visited the downtown area on the second and third days of school to explore the space before deciding what to create as their public art pieces.
The groups met with a representative from the City of Calgary’s Public Art department and interviewed him about public art, asking for his best advice and tips they could use as designers of public art. Students learned that public art is often very heavily inspired by the place it is created for, so they sharpened their observation skills by noticing what kinds of people were using the park. Students will be creating their art in response to questions each class generated from the data they collected on their field trip:
- How might we make public art that people can interact with and lets them play?
- How might we create public art that inspires people to take a break from their busy day and have fun?
A design challenge like this asks teachers and students to step right out of the walls of the school into the community to find and solve a real problem. Students had a strong voice in the process of this project, which will take them through many curricular areas as well as strong relationship building to begin the year in a good way.
When asked what play meant to them, a Grade 5/6 student stated that “play is to find fun in whatever you’re doing.”
Part of creating public art means that students learn to understand that people may interact with and change their art piece once it is shared with the world. When asked what they need to share with people about their art, the entire Kindergarten class called out at once, “don’t break it.” Another said, “Be gentle.” It is their hope that the art will make people feel “happy” and “amazing” and exclaim, “Look at that cool random art piece!”