Monday, November 28, 2005

Festival of Trees & Downtown Lights: Time to Get Your Jingle On

This holiday season, Downtown Prince George Business Association is launching their new “Downtown Lights” campaign to celebrate all that is great about the season while beautifying the downtown with lights. Set to coincide with the Civic Plaza Light Up on Wednesday, November 23, lights and decorations will be in place for six weeks of viewing throughout the holiday season to delight children of all ages. (Prince George Business Association)

This weekend Tim and I checked out the Festival of Trees at the Civic Center. It was a great suggestion to see how Prince George really gets into the holiday spirit. The trees were terrific, the decorations were dazzling, and the donations from community members to the Prince George Hospital were impressive. It got me into the Christmas spirit.

I always loved helping to decorate the Christmas tree at my own house. My sister and I made many dough decorations with my mom. An annual decoration we loved hiding in our tree was a Canadian classic... demonstrating how you can really recycle materials (when you're a high school biology teacher). My dad received a Canadian Moose ornament on skates, made out of varnished moose droppings. This is taking science and art integration to another level. It was always something that got a few comments from our Christmas company.

I do like to make my own decorations and put ornaments with pictures of my family on my Christmas tree. For me it makes the process of decorating very personal and memorable.
If you would like to make some ornaments with your students or kids check out the salt dough recipe on my links or click here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

comes to Prince George.




If you are home (in Prince George) for the holidays and you want to take your friend, signficant other, or a perfect stranger out for a good time check out the Corb Lund Band playing at Vanier Hall December 20, 2005.
Think of it as a cultural experience seeking to learn about your neighbors to the East.

"Corb Lund grew up 'in Southern Alberta, in the foothills of the Rockies.' His music is influenced by his experiences riding horseback, chasing cattle and rodeoing in Southern Alberta and living on the family farm and ranches near Taber, Cardston and Rosemary. Coming from four generations of ranchers and cowboys, Corb left his hometown of Taber and moved to Edmonton where he attended Grant MacEwan Performing Arts School to study jazz guitar and bass." (Corb Lund 2005)

You may have heard Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans on Prince George's local 97.3 "The Wolf Fm." This would be a good place to check the band's latest single to preview it and see if it is worth the $25 ticket for you.

Friday, November 18, 2005

For Keeps

I really like scrapbooking. In a twisted fashion that's how I ended my last post. I get a little carried away with Barthes. However, I got thinking about how my scrapbooking hobby could be useful in the classroom.

In my last practicum the classroom teacher included a photo album as part of her "class history." I really liked this idea but I thought it could be developed further to have students meet a visual arts curriculum objective in the process. The art and design process of making a layout for a scrapbooked page for a class history easily fits into 2-D design objectives in the provincial IRPs. I think it would be a great idea to also explore a photographic "collage" using class history photographs. (Possibly to do a photo mosaic as Tim will explain to us on December 1, 2005 for his Tech Challenge). As well one could do a portraiture project at the beginning and end of the year with students as a way to represent their growth over the year. A neat way to use photographs with portraiture is to get students to bring in multiple photographs of themselves (making sure the pictures feature students' faces at different angles and at different scales). Cutting up these pictures and layering them is an interesting way to make a self portrait that is recognizable but also uses layout and design elements. One might also look at some of Picasso's cubist paintings to compare design strategies.

I also did a little bit of searching and found a website that looked at scrapbooking as a way for students to present research. Making Waves is an online lesson plan for any research topic where students use digital scrapbooking to create a product. This could be a great way to incorporate visual arts, technology, and a subject of choice in an integrated fashion.

I used scrapbooking when teaching about the lithosphere myself. I brought in a scrapbook I had made about my trip to Drumheller, Alberta this past summer. I used pictures and words to show information about the area (maps), the layers of soil (pictures), and my description of the trip (journal), which lead to a hands-on activity where my students looked at my fossil collection. I used the scrapbook as an anticipatory to the lesson. I think this worked well and is a strategy I will try again in my teaching career. I think it shows the value of literacy as well because it shows students how they can be authors too.

Used in any of these ways I think scrapbooking is a worthwhile activity for students and teachers alike. I put a link on my website to a source with lots of tips for scrapbook beginners. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by kits, terms, and the amount of resources out there. If you decide to try this activity remember to keep it simple and have fun. It is a great way to personalize your work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I decided to read some other blogs out there regarding art.
Check out these students' concepts of art and furniture. I like that they have blended functionality with popular culture. Very cool art. Thanks to Regine.
There are resources on blogs and websites for those who are wise enough to seek the triple W.
Thanks to Rachel J. : Asian art is very cool thank you for inspiration.
Check this site on the Buddha...
and check the cool teacher resources.
Barthes and Camera Lucida: Death is in Every Photograph.
I read Camera Lucida for a class studying Semiotics. A subject which continues to fascinate me and challenge my sense of reality.
Semiotics - known in some circles as semiology - is the study of signs, both individually and grouped in sign systems, and includes the study of how meaning is made and understood.
Photography seems a popular item for discussion on our blogs and the blogs of others. Thank you to dalcorn. Take dalcorn's suggestion to check out Radiant Vista.
This medium has great ability to persuade the senses that the unreal is real.
How mischievious.
How honest.
We all see life through a filter.
Why do some cultures shy away from the power of the lens?
Professor Jolanta: I remember my very early childhood experience with photographs. When I asked my mother how come that I had never had grandparents, she replied that, of course I had them; everybody did, it was just that mine were dead. She walked to the library shelf and took down a big, leather-bound photo-album with silver clasps, browsed through it, and pulled out three rectangular cardboard or plastic-like, cards. In one were two brown patches that coincided with the shapes I was so fond of drawing at that time and calling them "Mom and Dad." She said that the patches were her mom and dad. "Did you draw them?" "No; they are zdjecia" (the Polish word for "pictures," literally meaning "taking-offs" or "removals"). Two shapes--people--in one photograph were looking in my direction. In the other two "removals," the same people were looking at me more obviously; I had adjusted to recognize the patches as faces. Yet my mind could not hold that adjustment for long. It still perceived the content of the cards as brownish shapes; they could not be Mom's mom and dad for how could they fit into the rectangle that I was holding in my hand? And how could they be there in front of me if they were dead?
There is something disturbing about mirrors and their power. This theme is represented in much of children's literature from Alice in Wonderland to Snow White to Aesop's Fables.
The photograph is much like a mirror but captures an image in time. Portraiture: seeing one's reflection.
I sometimes find I do not believe what I see in a photograph of myself.
Who was I then? I ask myself flipping back through a photographic record of my life.
I am detached. I am third person.
I am alienated?
I do not even remember what I was thinking when smiling in a yellow chicky suit at three years old on Halloween.
This is where I find an answer to the question above in regards to a cultural refusal to be photographed.
I think this refusal is as much a western creation as any other culture's.
"Video killed the Radio Star"
BUT... and this is a large but...
I love to scrap book. I love to cryogenically freeze my loved ones and memories into decorated albums... (I suppose Barthes would see this hobby as akin to picking out a coffin).
How delightfully creepy.
If art is death then perhaps I am a happy undertaker.

Debbie Travis.

I just have to share this.

This is a tidbit from my personal life. There is a very nice woman from whom I rent a living space in this town. This morning she was very excited to tell me that one of her close friends on the coast is going to be featured on the Home and Garden Network's - Debbie Travis' "FaceLift." Debbie Travis is sort of a Martha Stewart type with an English accent but without a criminal record. She has created several successful decorating shows. "Face Lift" is filmed in Toronto, Ontario. But Debbie decided to come out west so keep an eye out for this special episode from Vancouver!

I think this is really cool too. I am hoping to spend part of my Christmas Vacation helping my parents in the building of their home. I get to do a bathroom as I am something of a bath tub baby... and now we're going to have a jacuzzi tub in the family!

Anyhow I am developing an interest in interior design and architectural design. We'll see how I feel after a couple weeks of painting and grouting. On the upside I think that it is also very representative of a person's "art sense" how and what they use to decorate their home.

Right now I think my home says: "Student on a budget..." but there's potential!

I'll be letting you know what I think of the Reno when I get to see the episode and get the exact date for its airing. It's a small world after all.

Well here it is! My promised post on pepping up your passe pep rallies with some Canadian acapella art content. I have a little secret to share... I hope my dad does not mind too much but this idea was really his from the start.

So what do you know about the Nylons?

This Canadian quartet began its career in Toronto clubs and cabarets in 1978. It released six albums 1982-91: The Nylons (LAT-1125), One Size Fits All (LAT-1152), Seamless (LAT-1190), Happy Together (LAT-1233), Rockapella (LAT-1254), and Four on the Floor (ACD-1301).
Its repertoire includes many pop hits of the 1960s through the 1980s - eg: The Tokens' 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and The Supremes' 'Up the Ladder to the Roof. Its first two albums each sold more than 100,000 copies in Canada. Total sales internationally reached 3 million by 1991. The Nylons' greatest success, however, has come through their exuberant, if campy, live performances. The group's concerts are characterized by the dramatic use of lighting, costumes, sets, staging, and choreography that reflects the members' theatrical expertise. They employ only percussion for accompaniment. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

And why should you care?

Way back in the day when I was a Grade Seven student at my local high school my sister was on the basketball team and I was in the band. However, I loved our annual sports events because that was where I got exposed to acapella music for the first time. The entire school would get together and meet in the gymnasium for a major musical production.

Now a pep rally is meant to be an energizer for the audience. One of the best ways to get students excited is to poke a little fun at their teachers. My dad would work on a collaborative project with other teachers in his school over a weekend. Sometimes they spent longer planning but usually they could get their "act" together over a Sat/Sun. Each year the "Pylons" would be a main event of major tournaments hosted at our school. The "Pylons" act featured brave teacher recruits lip synching and doing a dramatized dance routine to a Nylon's song and then to some current and popular "teenie bopper" hit of the day.

The "Pylon's" started out dressed in white overalls from the local school shop. Underneath which was their costume hidden for the second teenie bopper number. The first costume would rip off easily and dramatically to the encouragement of the cheering crowd. The white coveralls were complemented with a flourescent orange pylon borrowed from the gym teacher (Mr. S) worn as headgear! This is how the "Pylons" truly earned their name. These teachers really did some exceptional performances and utilized the skills of Mr. S with the fog machine and stage lighting to make the pep rally a real event. I fondly remember one year where the entire staff joined in for a number cross dressed. I think in fact that is the point I wanted to share with you. I remembered the efforts of all of these teachers. All of us students came to anticipate these performances. They built a lot of school moral and I think also helped the staff at the school bond. I like to think of teachers as "real" people with a sense of humor. I think this type of event allowed students to appreciate their teachers in this way.

You may not be the type of teacher that feels confident taking on the school play or leading the singing of "Oh Canada" in your gym, maybe even your classroom. The lesson of the "Pylons" for me is that you can find ways to participate and take artistic risks to build a strong community in your school. Hoja did a great job of this when they visited our school. It happened that they selected some student teachers to be part of their act. While I'm not sure the student teachers loved it in the moment. They energized students and I think won a great deal of respect for their performances from the rest of the staff. Taking these kinds of risks can pay off in many ways, especially encouraging a sense of play and friendly regard in the school.

I know my father as an administrator at his school often had to take on an authoritative role. This was the part of his job that he liked the least. The "Pylons" gave him a chance to connect with students in a positive way and provided a forum for him to be seen differently by some of the students he had to discipline. I hope that this idea he started at his school can inspire other people to let loose a little and not be afraid to start a collaborative project at their own school. I'm thankful that he's "cool" enough to let me share this with you!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sorry this is going to have to be quick as I am just about to hitch a ride back home for a couple of days. In the meantime please if you are looking for something to do and you'd like to experience a little bit of art in a fun way check out "Hoja" Nov. 1o-11 at the Playhouse in town.

This group came and did a presentation of acapella music at our school (as they may have at yours). These are four Canadian boys with amazing voices, humor, and powerful affirmative messages for youth. I truly enjoyed their presentation and found myself clapping and singing along to modern and traditional acapella pieces.

If you have the money and the time check these guys out. You won't regret it. They had our school (teachers and children) fascinated for at least an hour!

To learn a little more about them check out my link or just click here.

I promise a future note about how to use the music from Canadian acapella group the Nylons in your school pep rally soon. But for now adieu!