Building a rich experience.
In past, grade 9 students have had to choose among Instrumental Music, Visual Arts, and Drama for their Arts elective. But for this school year, Hamilton District Christian High launched a new initiative: the Grade 9 Integrated Arts Block.
What’s the Arts Block?
“First, groups rotated through each kind of art, getting a chance to learn what the class was about and participate in some of the classes’ activities. After a few weeks of rotations, we got to choose one of the three arts to specialize in and take that class for the next six weeks. Closer to the end of the semester, the visual art, music and drama classes joined up once again to share what they had accomplished–whether it was a playing a musical piece, putting on a skit or sharing a portfolio of artwork!” ~ Abby, Arts Block Student
Offering grade 9 students the opportunity to experience all three strands of art will allow them to make a more informed choice about arts electives and extracurriculars in the future. Exposing the students to the Arts through the eyes of our expert teachers offers the students a passionate introduction to all three Arts and helps to inspire going deeper into the arts in future years.
“Before I started Arts Block I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it because I didn’t really want to go to all of the different types of arts. I like drama and music, but I had no interest in visual art. After doing Arts Block, I realized that I still really enjoyed visual. I didn’t have to be good, I just had to use my creativity and do the best I could.” ~ Alanna, Arts Block Student
At the end of the semester, students took on a group project that involved creating integrated, interactive Art installations with a focus on a particular country. This was the culmination of the course’s design since teachers orchestrated the Arts Block to begin with how Art impacts us individually, then moved through Art and our communities, Art and our country, and finally Art and our world.
“You get to enjoy some time doing group projects incorporating the three classes to make a perfect final project that can relate and connect to more people.” ~ Aidan, Arts Block Student
Student Leah shared that this project was her favourite and the one she was most and proud of. “My group had the United Kingdom as our country,” says Leah, “and we turned the door that used to be for the dark room into a phone booth.”
Remember Alanna, who didn’t think she was good at visual art? She says that the paintings her group made for their installation about Sweden “were probably the best pieces of art we have made. I was really proud of them.”
Arts Block also exposed students to quality art experiences. In the first semester, this involved a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario and to the Grand Theatre in London to see the musical Once. Students really enjoyed these outings, especially the theatre experience, and these trips generated some good discussion about the impact and purpose of Art in society.
Student responses to the new Arts Block have been varied; some have willingly tried to stretch themselves and try new things, while others have been resistant to stepping outside their comfort zones. All in all, teachers have been encouraged that some students surprised themselves by how much they liked an aspect of art that they didn’t expect to enjoy.
“Arts Block introduced me to all the different resources I have access to in the school, and how to use many different mediums! “
~ Abby, Arts Block Student
“If anything, [Arts Block] reinforced me wanting to take Arts in the future.” ~ Isaac, Arts Block Student
Not only have the students been learning, but the teachers have as well. Two goals they have for next semester are, first, to increase the amount of integration between the Arts, and second, to have more skill-building assignments at the beginning of the course to help create better final products.
When we asked students what they would change they had ideas. Overall, they liked how the course went for its first time through. One student’s suggestion was this: “I want to experience all three arts for a longer period of time!”
If one of the goals was to leave students wanting more, then the first semester of Arts Block was a success.
Cheryl Webb, Director of Operations & Sara Whetstone, Drama Teacher