Monday, December 2, 2013

Taan's Moons project - Session Three

Migratory Geese Moon
November has been a busy month for the Taan's Moons project. Alison and I went back to each of the six schools to continue our work with the Kindergarten (some mixed grades) classes. Thirteen large circular felted pieces, incorporating Alison's story of each moon, have been created with the children of the six elementary schools of Haida Gwaii.


This session had a different flow from the second session. Instead of working together with the whole class on each activity, we worked simultaneously in small groups on different activities. While I worked with three or four students at a time to create the felt pieces from start to finish, Alison, the teachers and volunteers worked with the other groups of students on related activities. Rotation of activities would happen quite naturally, when children were done an exercise or when the activity would not hold their attention any longer.

Familiar activities

We brought some activities we had used in session two, like the felt board story and the memory card game, to deepen the children's understanding of the story and embedding new words. But before we started with any of those activities, we began each day with 'warming up our imagination'. As this was the third time the children moved through the story with their bodies, we could really see how much they had learned in those sessions. For example, they remembered and understood the newly introduced words and concepts like 'hibernating' and 'migrating'.
The Haida youth dance group under guidance of Tyler Crosby returned to the schools and this time the whole school participated:

New activities

And we brought new activities to the classrooms. One of these was a creative writing exercise where the children were invited to create their own bear story.
 Paper weaving was an activity for the class that created 'Cedar Bark Weaving Moon':

Another activity was based on the felted berries the children had made during session two. We brought the book 'Wild Berries' by Julie Flett, a beautiful story about a little boy who goes berry picking with his grandmother. Story time is such an important part of the Kindergarten daily routine, and this book fitted perfectly into our project. After listening to the story, the children were invited to sort, count and string the felt berries.
Song and dance were incorporated into the day to release energies or when attention spans scattered:
In the afternoons we introduced the Taan's Moons felt playmat, which has each month/moon represented and is created with wet- and needle -felting techniques. This became a popular play station for the children.

Creation of the Felted Illustrations:

While Alison engaged the children in the above mentioned activities with the help of teachers and volunteers, I continuously worked with small groups of students to create the felt moons from start to finish.
We based the wool designs on the sketches created for each moon, which were inspired by Alison's story and the children's drawings (see 'Taan's Moons drawings' in previous blogpost):
We started out by laying out the wool and creating designs:
The felt roots and squares that the children created during session two were incorporated in the design:
Once the design was complete, we covered the piece with a polyester cloth and poured hot soapy water on top and started to rub with circular motions. A lot of rubbing was required.
Once the piece was firmly felted, we rolled it in a large bamboo mat (blind) to shrink and make it stronger:
Happy with the end results:
So much fun! I will post finished felt pieces once the photos have been taken by Jason.

We're sad the collaboration with the children has come to an end. But the project is far from finished. Many more stages are to follow; from creating a process book for the teachers to exhibits of the felted moons at ArtStarts Gallery (from March - August 2014) and at Haida Gwaii venues in the Fall of 2014. We are also in the process of working with a publisher to create a story book, to be published in the Fall of 2014!

Lots of exciting Taan's Moons events in 2014 to look forward to.

We are so grateful for the support from ArtStarts in Schools, SD50 and Literacy Haida Gwaii to make this project a reality! Ha'awa!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Taan's Moons - drawings

The children's drawings for the Taan's Moons poem, created during our introductory visit to the elementary schools of Haida Gwaii, play a very important part in the design of the thirteen felt moons. Together with Alison's poem, they informed me how to design the sketches for each Moon/month. The children had unique stories and drawings, with new ideas to incorporate. 
In 'Noisy Geese Moon' (see below), one of the children drew three noisy geese in front of the bear's den. He said "The geese are waking up the bear." Another child had drawn bright sunshine in the bear's den. He said "Sleeping bear, he is dreaming of race cars. The sun is coming in the den, waking bear up."

For 'Food gathering Moon', a student had drawn two baby bear and one mama bear, she said "Bear eating berries. Two bear cups love their mama. They're just outside the Kindergarten room." For that moon, I made sure to have two cup bears following their mama bear.

Fish Moon:

For Snow Moon, one student described: "Bear is in the tunnel, his eyes are closed. Then he goes out of the tunnel, he feels the snow with his paws. It feels just like the inside of his tunnel. There are his foot prints in the snow..." Another student descibes "Bear jumping in snow because he needs exercise". And the following says "Bear going for a walk in the snow, he doesn't recognize his cave in the snow." The illustration obviously needed to have bear foot prints in the snow:

The 13 circular sketches will be used as guidelines for the creation of the felted moons. They also inform me about the kinds of felting activities we need to do to create elements that will be inserted in the large moons. For example, we will create small felted squares with some honking geese with the school that creates 'Noisy Geese Moon', and we'll create felt seaweed and small squares with crabs and fish for 'Food Gathering Moon' and 'Fish Moon', and bear foot prints in snow for 'Snow Moon'. We will prepare all these ingredients in our next session at the schools. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Taan's Moons project - Session two

During the month of October, Alison Gear and I spent one full day at each of the six elementary schools of Haida Gwaii for the Taan's Moons project. We brought lots of different activities to the classrooms to make the children familiar with different elements of the Taan's Moons story. It is a story of the traditional Haida way of telling time, told through the eyes of a bear. 

The students also created many different felted elements, such as berries, roots, seaweed, branches and felted squares to be used in the large felted moons we will create during our next sessions at the schools in November (stay tuned for another post). 

Following is a largely visual overview of our days, photography by Jason Shafto.

Alison created flash cards and a memory game to introduce the Haida names of the moons (months): 
'Cedar Bark Weaving Moon' - September
Goose Moon (February), Raw Berry Moon (June), Bear Moon (January), etc.
We 'warm up our imagination' by literally moving through the months and the story:
Flying like a hummingbird for Raw Berry Moon
Autumn winds shaking Cedar trees for Cedar Bark Weaving Moon
Introduction to different types of sheep and samples of the different kinds of wool:
 Felting berries:
A felt board story of Taan's Moons created by Alison: 

Tyler Crosby and four students from the Haida youth dance group taught bear, eagle and raven songs, dances and let the children drum:

Outdoor games:
Noisy Goose Moon
Making felted roots, branches and seaweed:
rich harvest of felt seagrass and seaweed
Making felt squares with designs of bear prints in the snow, blossoms, crab and salmon: 
"And then I saw this bear, and he stood up on his back legs like this"
End of the day 'Show and Tell' of a intertidal felt piece that I created for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve (thank you for letting us use it with the children!):
A special thanks to all the students, teachers and volunteers who made these days a success!

This artist residency is partially funded by an Artists in the Classroom grant, disbursed by ArtStarts in Schools. It is supported by School District 50 and Literacy Haida Gwaii

Photography by Jason Shafto. Please do not use photos without permission of the artist.