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April 24, 2017

The Salmon Connection: Artists in the Classroom

The Salmon Connection: Artists in the Classroom

Today's guest blog comes from Sue Leach, a Grade 5 teacher at Columbia Park Elementary in Revelstoke, BC. Supported by an Artists in the Classroom grant, students dove into an arts integrated exploration of salmon with artist Tina Lindegaard. 

If this story resonates with you, why not start a creative project of your own? The next deadline to apply for Artists in the Classroom grants is May 26, 2017. Grants of up to $3,500 for small to medium scale projects and grants of up to $10,000 for large scale projects are available. Read on below for more details.


Finally, we can celebrate some of our art on the ArtStarts blog! It has taken us a while to get to this stage, and boy, has it been fun. Before I tell you about our art projects thus far, let me give a brief overview of who we are and of our program.

Tina Lindegaard is the amazing artist key to our success. I, Sue Leach, am the Grade 5 teacher at Columbia Park Elementary fortunate to work so closely with Tina, inspiring the 25 students in my class.

Our entire Grade 5 year is centered on salmon, connecting them to as many aspects of the curricula as possible, including the salmon life cycle, anatomy, habitat and food chains/webs. In the Fall, an early fieldtrip took us to the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre near Enderby where the kids learned about salmon, their historic importance to the Secwepemc, the First Nations people of that area, and of their traditional fishing and preservation methods. In the Spring, we will return to Kingfisher to release the Chinook fry that we have been raising in our classroom.

After making some accordion books to serve as artists' journals, we did some printmaking using styrofoam food trays. We made bear and salmon cards on paper and even curtains for the classroom.

Tina and I were especially excited about doing some felting with the students. To introduce them to wet felting, we first made felted soap. This is a simple project and is relatively tidy if using plastic bags. Later, the class made green and red felted soap, which was then donated to the school's Christmas craft fair.

Next, we made bookmarks. These provided the perfect opportunity to introduce the students to needle felting! They were very enthusiastic about their pieces; several students even made extras for family and friends.

Now we were ready to create salmon habitats using the wet felting process, and later adding rocks, weeds, salmon eggs and salmon by needle felting. The results were incredible!

We mounted these felted pieces onto cedar shakes we made from 300-400 year-old Western Red Cedar from the Columbia River forests. Then Tina and I attached leather strips to the shakes in order to hang them in columns, creating a "fish ladder" effect. A fishing net stretched out behind them finish the display nicely.

The students also learned how to work with clay while creating salmon for another art project. They used templates to cut out salmon from pre-rolled slabs of clay, then added anatomy features and other patterns. These were propped up and wound around various cans of food and left to slowly dry. Next, they were dipped into a glaze before the students added their own glazes. We had some challenges with the glazing and firing so the fish didn't turn out quite as Tina and I had planned. They look lovely in their own right, but we will be making more fish so that we end up with some spawners!

Presently, the students are needle-felting quilt squares (they are looking amazing!) but you'll have to check back to see the finished product and learn how they are part of the salmon connection.


Feeling inspired?

Artists in the Classroom grants offer up to $3,500 for small to medium scale projects and grants of up to $10,000 for large scale projects are available. Kindergarten to Grade 12 educators, school administrators, PAC representatives and artists in British Columbia are eligible to apply. The next deadline to apply is May 26, 2017, for projects taking place in the 2017-18 school year. Activate learning in and through the arts for your students!

AIC grants are disbursed by ArtStarts in Schools and funded by BC Arts Council and the Government of British Columbia's Creative Futures program.

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