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September 24, 2021

Artists in the classroom highlight | St'a7mes (Stawamus) School and The Cinematheque

Image description: A view of the Squamish Valley and Howe Sound. In the foreground is a grassy field. The sound is in the middle of the image. In the background is the mountains that surround the Squamish Valley.



 

Each year artists and educators collaborate to provide students arts-based experiences through the Artists in the Classroom grant. The pandemic has been incredibly demanding for students as they adapt to a constant state of flux. A classroom project would need to be equally adaptive. The AIC grant has allowed for dynamic arts-integrated projects to continue in schools in a safe and innovative way. One example is the collaboration between The Cinematheque and students from St'a7mes (Stawamus) School.

Artist-facilitators Chelsea Birks, Natalie Murao, and Sam Mason from The Cinematheque, and St'a7mes teachers Brodie Robbins, Kaylee Verbeek, and Charlene Williams worked with students to deliver a five-day film-making program titled Sound Science.

Charlene Williams, the Culture and Language Advisor for St'a7mes School, holds a cedar hat. A documentary created by students at St’a7mes School - Learning Expeditions and co-produced by The Cinematheque © 2021

Still from Átl’ḵa7tsem. A documentary created by students at St’a7mes School - Learning Expeditions and co-produced by The Cinematheque © 2021

St'a7mes School is a project-based learning program where students learn key curriculum concepts through collaborative interdisciplinary projects designed for public exhibition. The Cinematheque’s pedagogy aligns with St'a7mes School in that they approach facilitating short films through experiential learning and collaboration. Sound Science aimed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to respond creatively to societal and environmental change. Through their seven short film projects, students were asked to explore the following questions:

  • How can we support the health and well-being of Atl’kitsem/Howe Sound and all its residents?
  • How do we prevent or remediate ecological disasters?
  • Who are the stakeholders in Atl’kitsem/Howe Sound, and how can we elevate their voices?

Students were guided through a land-based approach to explore the Howe Sound area through documentary filmmaking, and engaged with scientists and community leaders to understand different priorities and perspectives on the places in which they live. St'a7mes suggested the central theme and engaged Charlene Williams, St'a7mes School Culture and Language Worker. This ensured that Indigenous knowledge and historical accounts would be done in consultation with Elders and other Knowledge Keepers. The Cinematheque developed a film production project plan in line with the theme’s central motivating questions.

We interviewed The Cinematheque to learn more about the experience of producing a project during COVID and the impact the collaboration had on both St'a7mes and The Cinematheque.

How did St’a7mus School and the Cinematheque find one another to collaborate?

The Cinematheque: St'a7mes school got in touch with us in June 2020 because they had heard from another Squamish school (Sea to Sky Alternative) that we run intensive film weeks. The Cinematheque's Learning & Outreach program is always looking for opportunities to expand our reach beyond Metro Vancouver. We were really excited about the chance to work with a new school!

A whale expels air through its blowhole while swimming in the Howe Sound. The whale is just barely visible above the water's surface and mountains frame the backdrop. Still from There and Back: A Whale’s Tale, A documentary created by students at St’a7mes School - Learning Expeditions and co-produced by The Cinematheque © 2021

Still from There and Back: A Whale’s Tale, A documentary created by students at St’a7mes School - Learning Expeditions and co-produced by The Cinematheque © 2021

How did you ensure COVID safety throughout the project?

The Cinematheque: We ensured COVID-19 safety through compliance with both The Cinematheque's COVID-19 safety plan and the safety plans in place at St'a7mes School and School District 48. This required a lot of flexibility for everyone. While we always had a backup plan to run the program virtually, we really wanted to give the students the opportunity to work with professional filmmaking equipment.

We rescheduled our original dates of April 26-30 because of the spring circuit breaker and were able to run a hybrid program in June, once restrictions and safety plans allowed. Masking, sanitization, and filming outside where possible were crucial elements of the safety plan. The Cinematheque facilitators felt safer doing a hybrid program because it allowed us to reduce contact while still providing the in-person support necessary to execute these projects. We are really grateful to ArtStarts for their flexibility. They were extremely communicative throughout the process and generously allowed us to adapt our schedule in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Rhonda O'grady of Squamish River Watershed Society stands in the valley with mountains in the background. Still from Herring: the heart of Squamish. A documentary created by students at St’a7mes School - Learning Expeditions and co-produced by The Cinematheque © 2021

Still from Herring: the heart of Squamish. A documentary created by students at St’a7mes School - Learning Expeditions and co-produced by The Cinematheque © 2021

What was the impact of this project?

The Cinematheque: The impact of this project is profound and still unfolding! The St'a7mus students really pushed the envelope with these projects, and truly exceeded the expectations of both The Cinematheque and teachers at St'a7mes. Students enjoyed the opportunity to learn by going outside and out into the community. They dug into the multi-disciplinary themes of the project by interviewing local stakeholders, exploring the Howe Sound area with camera and sound equipment, and researching their chosen documentary topics.

What did students have to say about it?

The Cinematheque: Students expressed a lot of enthusiasm about the chance to work with professional filmmaking equipment: their camera skills were really strong, and they captured really remarkable footage of Howe Sound! These documentaries are among the highest-quality films that students have produced in The Cinematheque's programs in the last several years. The Cinematheque will enter them in local and youth-oriented film festivals (such as the Squamish International Film Festival and the Real 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth) for the 2021-2022 season. Most importantly, students learned both creative and technical skills that will help them with visual communication and self-expression, helping to ensure that they can make their voices heard through future projects.

Watch St'a7mes School and The Cinematheque’s Sound Science online.

The Artists in the Classroom grant application is open to artists and educators interested in bringing similar projects to the classroom. Learn more about the grant. To receive future opportunities straight in your inbox, sign up for the ArtStarts Newsletter.

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