It's almost approaching a year since I had the amazing opportunity of being a staff supervisor for a group of 15 grade 5 & 6 students from LSPS who got a chance to participate in a 6 week art intensive program offered by McMichael Art Gallery, last January and Feburary 2016. Our school was lucky enough to take part in this “Visual Outreach Initiative Creating Empowered Students” (V.O.I.C.E.S.) developed by McMichael Canadian Art Collection professional artists/educators in partnership with YRDSB.
The program is designed to engage students who would otherwise not be engaged in school and is an opportunity for them to be immersed in art curriculum as well as an opportunity to express themselves in alternative response modes. There was no art experience necessary for these students to take part. The program included 5 day trips to the McMichael Gallery and one follow-up trip by the Gallery to our school.
I had a chance to bond with students that I wouldn't otherwise get the opportunity to know. I watched students who struggled to communicate advocate for themselves to voluteer staff at the McMichael Art Gallery about their need for a "fidget toy" and do some on the spot teaching about themselves and their strengths and needs. For my students with exceptionalities, this program has meant improved social skills, self-advocacy and an entry point into the curriculum. The Arts is a way in which all of us can communicate what is in our hearts.
I watched students who struggled with mental health find a healthy outlet to express their emotions through using their sketchbooks and I saw the sense of pride and wonder on each of these students faces. I have received media release form consents to showcase the students on this trip and their journey exploring the gallery and various art forms.
I highly recommend this program and will let the pictures speak for themselves. Thank you McMichael Art Gallery for making a forever impact on our students at LSPS. Even a year later, the students and I still bond over the life changing experience. Thank you to Bonnie and Christina our art leader-facilitators and to Pauline who all helped make this experience possible!