Exploring Symbols - An Arts Education journey #createiiveducation

History has begun with the creation of what we can call the first symbol: writing, which included both letters, numbers and signs. Prior to the creation of writing, during prehistory, drawings have been used as symbols to represent a lifestyle. The new BC Curriculum focuses on literacy and mathematics, which are symbols. The revised curriculum also suggests the learning of coding, which also contains many symbols. For this project, I wanted to go back to the roots of how these symbols have been created in the Ancient Civilizations and how their meaning have involved globally today.


With this project,

students explored how symbols can be expressed differently through nature, sounds and light. Students had an opportunity to engage in activities that allowed them to grow emotionally, socially and intellectually without premeditation.


To begin our inquiry, we went on complete a tour of the neighbourhood to find symbols. that would help them describe their generations. The main categories that were found by students that day were: connected, creative, busy, educated and mixed. I was paired up with T’uy’t’tanat, also known as Cease Wyss, a local aboriginal artist. With her, we visited the  217.5 Arc X 13 by Bernar Venet, a Vancouver Biennale installation that inspired this inquiry, located at Second Beach, in Vancouver, BC. We explored how this installation can be used as a symbol and what are some of the characteristics the installation has in common with the symbols from the Ancient Civilizations we had previously explored at the Museum of Vancouver. We used the installation to make connections with the Math curriculum, by using it to study the circle and to use it as the origin for a giant coordinate graph, using rocks to identify each quadrant, having to work together to make this living Math nature art around the installation.Students used their personal devices to record sounds used for a collective spoken word track. Some created sounds with the installation, while others recorded some of the sounds around them like the racing police cars, the seagulls and the sound of the ocean. 


After inquiring about the patterns that are visible in our environment, my students decided to work on the community garden of our school, inspired by plants that had a symbolic meaning to them. My students came up with the task to create tools that would maintain the school garden. Some of the inventions included a waterwheel, a seed planter made with Lego Minsdstorms and a garden controller made with Arduino. We visited the Haroon Mirza exhibition on Light and Sound at the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery to explore different perspectives on symbols and to gather ideas for our inventions. Mirza has received international acclaim for work that tests the interplay and friction between sound and light waves and electric current.

As we entered the last phase of our inquiry, the students embarked on their journey to create a mixed-media painting with three layers: a collage of pictures that represents symbols, splatter of paints to represent the emotions and a political statement on an element of the Generation Z in the style of a Graffiti art.The project culminated in a collective exhibition that represented one or multi symbols that represent student identity and their place in the world.

This article is a resumé of the inquiry described in Rebel with a Cause by CreateIIV.










For educators, lesson plans and activities linked to this Arts Education inquiry are available in the Arts Education store.