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Holland College Early Learning Centre pilots ArtsSmarts project

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Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

The staff and children in Holland College’s Early Learning Centre participated in a unique ArtsSmarts PEI project recently. ArtsSmarts is dedicated to improving the lives and learning capacity of Canadian children by injecting arts into school based programs. This project was focused on Early Childhood, the first of its kind in Prince Edward Island, as ArtsSmarts projects are typically undertaken with school-aged children. This time, the participants were only 1-5 years old.

The concept for the project was developed by Vicki AllenCook and Helena Essery, from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and guest artist Julia Sauvé. The team worked with the children to determine how to create an art project that would support the objectives of the provincial early learning framework curriculum. After observing the youngsters at play and listening to their conversations and questions, the concept of “The Dance of the Butterfly” emerged.

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

“Preschool children are often interested in the life cycle of the butterfly,” Susan Ashley, faculty liaison between the Early Learning Centre and Holland College’s Early Childhood Care and Education program explained. “This project explored the life cycle through visual arts, music, drama, creative movement, and dance. Encouraging even the youngest children to use their imaginations is essential to their development as creative thinkers.”

Well-known dancer Julia Sauvé developed a music and movement piece for the infants and young toddlers using variations of the children’s song Eency Weency Spider. The 2- to 5-year-olds learned elements of dance and performance as they played various roles: the hungry caterpillar, the sleepy chrysalis, and the soaring butterfly searching for nectar.

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

The children made their own antennae and wings, and used their nap time blankets in an interpretative dance. Staff, students from the Early Childhood Care and Education program and the children worked with Julia as they interpreted the transformation.

“The children performed for each other, which made the entire project very relaxed and non-threatening,” Susan said. “And to celebrate the success of their performance, the event ended with a grand dance party!”

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

Suzanne MacKenzie, Director of the Early Learning Center, said that the project was well worth the time and effort expended by everyone.

“To watch this project come together was an incredible experience. It flowed from a creative vision, to the inclusion of all children, incorporating the education and developmental pieces, followed by the implementation of the final dance and celebration. The additional pleasure of the experience was the breath-taking photos and video that will be forever treasured by many. I have a great deal of respect for those involved in this project and their beautiful talents.”

The information about the project is part of an ArtsSmarts exhibit in the Gallery of Confederation Centre of the Arts. The Early Learning Centre hopes to participate in a similar project in the future, and to see the ArtsSmarts initiative introduced into more early learning centres across the Island.

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding

Image courtesy of Marlene Harding


Written by Sara Underwood

May 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm

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