At the end of June, I finished up a year-long project at an arts-based high school in Kamloops (about four hours outside of my home city of Vancouver). Over the many months, I delivered a series of world-building activities, all via Zoom, first because of the pandemic and then because the roads were cut off after our extreme flooding (and then because of covid again).
I do a lot of teaching and speaking over digital technologies, but it’s always a bit more challenging when art is involved because I simply don’t get a chance to lean over shoulders and see what everyone’s working on in the moment. Sure, people can send me photos and files, but it’s never quite the same, mostly because I find it harder to connect with the students.
Luckily, I was finally able to make the trip to Kamloops in the last week of June to deliver a keynote speech to the entire school body and to view their amazing gallery of work. The biggest surprise? The students were so engaged, asking me so many questions, and showing some genuine interest—these were things that I just didn’t pick up on during our virtual sessions. So, there was a connection, and that made the experience extremely rewarding.
As for the specifics of the project, the students were divided into teams to create five different realms: Ice, Sky, Underground, Land, and Water. The worldbuilding was applied to every course in the curriculum—not only the obvious ones such as art and writing, but also science and math.
The result was really amazing. As I wandered the gallery of their Enchanted Earth, I found sculpture, myths, recipes, maps, constellations, language systems, field guide entries for creatures, dioramas . . . pretty much every corner of these worlds was imagined and explored.
I’m showing pictures of just a fraction of the amazing pieces.
I want to extend my thank you to all the students and staff at Kamloops School of the Arts (secondary pod), in particular my partner Melanie Gilmar, who spearheaded the entire initiative. A big thank you to ArtStarts, the funding body for the project.