“We just came from the music workshop, and I loved it!” says Sophie, a Grade 4 student from Centennial-Grand Woodlands School with a beaming smile on her face and a bounce in her step as she recalls her day so far at North Park Collegiate and Vocational School. Her class is one of several participating in Art Soup, two days of workshops facilitated by artists to introduce junior students to disciplines including dance, visual arts, theatre, and music. “Now I’m very, very, very, very excited about the drama workshop!”
Taking place in secondary schools in Haldimand, Norfolk, and Brant counties over two days, the annual Art Soup invites students in Grades 4, 5, and 6 to get hands-on in each artistic practice, culminating in a talent showcase at the end of each day.
“While there’s been an emphasis on math and technology in education recently, we know that exposure to, and participation in, the arts leads to student achievement in many areas – both academically and personally,” said Randy Ongena, Chair of the Art Soup committee and Vice Principal at River Heights School. “By partnering with professional artists in our communities, students are able to learn about possible career paths as well.”
In the gym at North Park Collegiate and Vocational School, hip hop music is blasting through the sound system as dancer and educator Dani Nobrega instructs Cedarland Public School students to strike a pose before they switch gears as the music changes to a waltz. Nobrega is one of several professionals in her field working with students in Grand Erie today.
“Dance offers students a chance to explore self-expression through freedom of movement within the safety of a structure,” says Nobrega of the wholistic, student-centred approach she takes to teaching dance. “We start each class by learning what I call the ‘groove truths’ – there’s no wrong way to do it, it doesn’t matter what other people think of us, and we’re not in competition with each other.”
Scheduled on secondary school turnaround days following exams, the workshops also aim to increase elementary students’ comfort levels with their local secondary school, familiarizing them with the buildings and the facilities that each offers.
“We hear students remarking on how ‘cool’ it is to be spending the day at the secondary school in their community,” says Laurie Murray, Principal at participating school Onondaga-Brant Public School, and member of the Art Soup planning committee. “It’s a great day for them to feel successful, and to pull that sense of pride and achievement into other areas.”
Art Soup ties directly to Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan and its focus on Success for Every Student. The event meets the Achievement indicator goal of “increasing student understanding of effective learning strategies and how to use them,” as well as the Community indicator goal of “celebrating the partners whose contributions enhance the experiences of our students.”