From March of this year, Kristen Gill, National Geographic Certified Educator at Montroyal Elementary, has been working on an exciting global art exchange project with her grade 5 students, through the organization One World Classrooms. Her class sent art away to the organizers in March, and in early June received their package of art from around the globe!
How the Art Exchange Works
One World Classrooms are a non-profit organization with the goal of connecting local and global classrooms through the arts and technology through various programs and resources.
The Global Art Exchange, which Kristen Gill at Montroyal Elementary participated in, is a program in which a teacher completes an art project with their class on one of many themes – including STEM, social justice, culture, and more.
As part of the program, students were encouraged to produce a piece of art, and then describe the meaning behind the visuals they create. Photos of the art and students are captured and sent in a package to the One World Classroom head office in Massachusetts to eventually be exchanged globally.
Building Global Bridges Through Art
Once One World Classrooms collected the art received at head office, the team then sorted each piece of art by approximate age, placed it into packages, and then mailed every single participating class a piece of international art!
In addition to the exchange, One World Classrooms also sends interactive Google Maps, which students can use to view other global schools via streetview.
Bringing Diversity to Life at Montroyal
As a diverse community filled with rich backgrounds, immigrants, and First Nations peoples, our schools play a large role in continuing the conversation of reconcillation and acceptance across all cultures.
In Kristen's class of 27 students alone, there is a community of immigrants and Canadian citizens originally from Switzerland, Iran, China, England, Scotland, Ireland, Philippines, South Korea, Armenia, Australia, India, South Africa, Scandinavia and Jamaica.
Some of the class is also learning English, with seven different mother tongue languages in the room.
Kristen explains, "The critical and global thinking generated in my group of 11-year-old grade five students has been absolutely incredible. Class discussions about what motivated the other artists, and cultural significance of the pieces has been meaningful and though provoking."
Given the diversity of Kristen's own class, and the current reconciliation process for immigrants and First Nations peoples across the nation, the students discovered a natural connection between the topics they were learning about in school.
For this reason, the students chose to focus on the theme of culture and First Nations for the art exchange, specifically the first culture in Canada; Haida First Nations.
Students studied the Haida art form closely, and created Haida First Nations-inspired spiritual art.
As inspiration for their artwork, the students chose a spirit animal who they felt connected to their own goals and identity. They chose a modern representation of what is traditionally carved into wooden objects. Such objects use the spiritual identity of many local animals, and are used to tell legends, family and village history, and in ceremonies.
The Art Package that Montroyal received from One World Classrooms features 25 pieces from around the world – including Dominican Republic, Thailand, Ukraine, Kenya, Nepal, Lithuania, China, Canada, USA, Czech Republic and South Africa.
"Opening the art exchange package was like Christmas, as I did not know exactly what we were going to get. We are slowly finding out where our art went. One piece we just learned is on the wall in the Lithuanian school that participated!", mentions Kristen.
The art exchange program offers many unique benefits for student learning experiences, including rich discussion and a higher level of thinking for students while comparing, contrasting, and learning from other cultures.
"This International art exchange has been an incomparable experience communicating and learning about our world through art. My students created thoughtful, beautiful art, knowing it would represent them around the world and I have been equally as amazed with the pieces we received.", says Kristen.
To further enhance the experience, learning activities were planned both before the students created the artwork, and also afterwards once Montroyal had received their own global package.
"So many global connections and new understandings have been made, this project has been a step forward for my students in becoming global citizens. I can't wait to do this again next year."
To learn more about One World Classrooms and its Global Art Exchange Program, visit www.oneworldclassrooms.org.