“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same…” – A powerful production by the International School of Lausanne’s Performing Arts ASA of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
The International School of Lausanne Year 1 teaching team were delighted to welcome the parents of their students to the Early Childhood Building at the start of April to an afternoon celebration of the IB PYP “How We Express Ourselves” unit of learning. Read on to discover the story of not only the celebration itself, but to find out more about the unit’s provocation and the journey of the learners; a further gallery of images can be found at the end of the article.
On a beautiful early April afternoon, as gusts of a roguish Spring wind swept pale pink petals fluttering from the clouds of blossom on ISL’s cherry trees across a deep blue sky, the parents of our International School of Lausanne Year 1 students began arriving for a special Early Childhood event: the celebration of the “How We Express Ourselves” unit of learning.
As part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP), the unit has been an inquiry into the arts as an individual and collaborative process, giving the Year 1 learners the opportunity to discover the different ways in which they can use the arts to express themselves.
The unit provocation – which, in IB jargon, refers to a considered and carefully crafted activity designed to ignite students’ interest – took place several months ago, when the EC students visited the MCB Platform 10 Art Museum in Lausanne.
As part of their Dual Language learning, there was a further provocation during which a French artist and storyteller told a story in the auditorium, which linked to puppet theatre and storytelling in French.
Inspired by one of the EC trips into the local woodland on the International School of Lausanne’s doorstep, the charming Forêt de Sauvabelin, the Year 1s chose the forest as their overarching theme, and embarked on an artistic journey, discovering how painting and sculpture, music and dance, design and technology, could all be used to translate their interpretations of the forest’s natural world into visual and performing art.
The students experimented with different forms of artistic mediums and experimented with different forms of dance to a variety of music, and then explored line rider animation, using music and art together.
Alongside the Year 1 teaching team, Ms Bowen and Ms Pieterse, the Year 1s were supported in their learning journey by specialists throughout the International School of Lausanne faculty: the artists visited Ms Dodson (Teacher of Design) in the Design Lab; the dancers met with Ms Macoskey (Teacher of Music) to learn more about Swing Dance and performing; and the sculptors were shown by Mr Turland (Teacher of Computer Science and Digital Design) how ISL’s 3D printers work, with Mr Turland contributing to their final tree sculpture by printing some pretty 3D leaves.
As the Year 1 learners developed their artistic abilities, they began working towards the end of unit celebration event: a showcase of their dancing, art and sculpture, with the three different groups of artists coordinating to create their own version of the forest of Sauvabelin within the colourful walls of the Early Childhood building.
And so, on that sunlit April afternoon, as the Year 1 parents walked down the steps to the light and spacious EC multi-purpose room, they were greeted by proud members of the Early Childhood teaching team, and a palpable buzz of anticipation. Backstage, the Year 1 performers, feeling more confident after a rehearsal performance to the Year 3s the previous day, were jumping up and down with excitement.
The story of the Year 1s’ learning journey was beautifully expressed on one long wall along the room: first, inspired by the provocation visit to the MCB Platform 10 Art Museum, a panel of paintings in a riot of colours and geometric shapes, given context by display signs stating “We created our own Paul Klee / Mondrian / Kandinsky / Van Gogh picture”; in the next panel, a process journal detailed the sculptors’ inquiry into how they would recreate the forest.
The fascinating learning journey display continued behind the closed doors leading to where the performers were waiting to begin; the parents would have the opportunity afterwards to be taken around by their children and shown it.
An anticipatory hush fell as Ms Bowen (Teacher of Year 1) introduced the performers; the perfect quiet was broken by the sounds of birds tweeting (a recording made by the Year 1s whistling to imitate the calls), and then two of the sculptors came tiptoeing onto the stage, sneaking bashful sideways looks at their beaming audience, and then knelt down by the forest sculpture on the right of the stage to work a hoist lifting a purple butterfly to the top of a tall plant.
The boys joined the rest of the Year 1 sculptors and artists sitting on the floor in the front row of the audience; the backstage door opened again and, smiling with shy pride, the dancers, dressed in colours to represent the natural world of the forest came on stage.
As the performers moved through their interpretive routine with touching earnestness and infectious enthusiasm, they infused the functional indoor space with the energy of the different elements of the forest – the growth of trees, the flight of birds, and the life-giving rays of the sun – with each dancer bringing their own individuality to their expression of movement.
Their rapt audience greeted the end of the performance with a heartfelt round of applause, which gathered in volume as the rest of the team – the artists and the sculptors – joined the dancers on stage to have their efforts celebrated.
Clutching their parents’ hands, the Year 1s then led them on a tour of the art works, wall displays, and classrooms, all of which were a feast for the visual senses; the EC teaching team had put immense time, effort and creativity into documenting the unit process with delightfully engaging images and helpful narrative details – the walls brought to life the journey the Year 1s had been on throughout the self-expression unit, and the students themselves proudly led their parents through their story of learning.