West Vancouver Schools links past and present generations to the creative and performing arts

March 11, 2014 - 4 minutes read

A strong tradition of arts in our schools is a long-standing hallmark and part of the high achievement story in our district. Yes, we take great pride in our academic achievements, but we also hold these other successes to be of great importance.

I have been reminded of the talent in our district first-hand this past month while enjoying two wonderful productions, Sentinel’s Alice in Wonderland and The Little Mermaid at Gleneagles Ch’ax’áý. The opportunities our students have to share their talents, publicly and regularly, are wonderful.

Most recently, art teacher Jackie Wong has brought together an impressive group of distinguished alumni and sponsors to support art and design mentoring opportunities for 28 aspiring student artists through SD45One. Among the many talented alumni participating are Bobbie Burgers, Douglas Coupland and Ross Penhall. The work, developed in collaboration with the students, will be on display at the West Vancouver Museum in April, and in May, at Ambleside and John Lawson Park. In addition to inspiring young artists through the success of our alumni, SD45One will also raise funds to support fine arts in the district.

In West Vancouver, the commitment to the arts starts in our elementary schools. We are one of the only school districts with specialist teachers in our elementary schools focused in the arts.  School concerts and musicals are also part of the culture in so many of our elementary schools. Last spring, Irwin Park music teacher, Zoltan Virag presented (see it here) at TEDx WestVancouverED on how students are using technology in the music classroom. This is just one example of the new ways in which we are marrying new technologies and the arts.

As students transition into secondary, numerous elective options in the arts are available at each of our three secondary schools.  One new option worth noting is Art West 45, housed at West Vancouver Secondary. Art West 45 is a full-day specialized visual arts program offered to students in grades 10-12 who have a committed interest in visual arts and design. Students will receive credits in Visual Arts, Media Arts, Applied Skills, Work Experience and Grad Transitions.

I am so pleased to see more of our schools working with Vancouver Biennale this year, and we will have more projects to showcase later this spring. Last spring, I wrote a blog post (here) on our work with the Vancouver Biennale. In that post, I highlighted many of the wonderful things I was seeing, including:

  • Teachers collaborating within and across schools
  • Students interacting with practising artists
  • An emphasis on production and performance
  • Classes are not only in schools, but in the community, where the art is as well
  • Curriculum organization around ‘big ideas’ and educators putting together thoughtful work which is shared with others
  • A natural integration of outcomes from a variety of disciplines
  • Building true education partnerships between the school and the community
  • Incorporation of goals like self-regulation and the promotion of activity-based education
  • Schools reaping the benefit of community expertise

I invite everyone in our community to take part in the upcoming Lighthouse Festival. This showcase of creative and performing arts celebrates the amazing artistic work of students and staff in our 17 schools. Join us April 8 – 17 at Park Royal South for daily weekday performances and visit the displays on location.

Thanks to all our students, staff and parents for their ongoing support of arts in our community.

Have a great spring break!