Lili Mongeau practising for the Our Spirit of Canada at the Whalebone Theatre.

CEAP student-driven play about Canadian history

Students will be presenting the play at the Whalebone Theatre in Parksville

The CEAP (Collaborative Education Alternative Program) has been working on Our Spirit of Canada since October of last year, and they’re finally getting to present it this week.

CEAP teacher Lesley LaCouvee said inspiration for the project came from a need for the class to engage in a group project.

“What we wanted to do was involve every single member of our classroom while looking at Canada,” LaCouvee said. “Our grades 4 to 7 group researched Canada and all the significant historical moments and then what we did is we placed them on a large timeline and then the children did what’s called a dotmocracy.”

LaCouvee said the children assigned dots to the moments that they felt were the most salient.

Along with the grades 4 to 7, LaCouvee said the kindergarten to Grade 3 students learned three Canadian songs as well as learning some dance sequences.

LaCouvee said a lot of the kids are taking big risks such as performing solos in the show.

Grade 6 student Ember Westerhof will be opening the song I Believe which was the 2010 Winter Olympics theme song.

“Everyone was singing a song in the group and I just liked the song,” Westerhof said. “They asked if anyone would like to try singing a solo, and I thought why not because it’s all my friends.”

Of the 52 students in the CEAP elementary program, LaCouvee said 100 per cent of the students are involved in the show in some capacity.

The play, LaCouvee said in 100 per cent original work.

“They worked as a group together to form those little sort of playwright things then (Shannon Cowan) pulled the whole piece together using all their original work,” LaCouvee said, adding that Cowan, who has a background in writing, was brought on to help the students write the play.

Cowan said she is very proud of what the students came up with over the weeks that she worked with them.

“I was very moved and blown away every week. They would just come up with some amazing scenes. Just naturally funny, naturally uninhibited with their writing,” Cowan said. “They get to take theatre and history and writing and put it all into one project, I think makes it real life for them.”

Westerhof said the Our Spirit of Canada has been a fun project, but it’s also been a lot of work.

“When you actually see a play, you don’t realize how much work actually went into the designing, the scriptwriting and blocking out the stage and props and costumes. It’s a big thing,” Westerhof said. “We’re making an original thing. We didn’t get it from anywhere. We created it as a group.”

LaCouvee said the idea for this project came about with the B.C. Ministry of Education’s new re-designed curriculum which looks for more personalized learning and inquiry-based learning.

“This was a perfect example of bringing a multi-age group together and being — for everyone — to learn and to pull something out of it that was interesting and exciting,” LaCouvee said.

LaCouvee said they also received a generous grant from the B.C. Arts Council called Artists in the Classroom.

Our Spirit of Canada will be at the Whalebone Theatre at Ballenas Secondary School (135 North Pym Rd., Parksville) on June 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. The show is by donation.

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