|MERTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TO BE PRESENTED PRIX ESSOR BY QUEBEC GOVERNMENT|
MONTREAL, SEPTEMBER 23, 2004— Merton Elementary School (5554 Robinson) in Côte Saint-Luc will host the Regional Awards Ceremony for the Prix Essor 2004 on Tues. Sept. 28 at 9:30 a.m.
Merton will be formally recognized as the first prize winner in the Montreal Region for its Medieval Fair project which took place last spring. The second place winner is École Secondaire Chomedey de Maisonneuve.
The Prix Essor contest recognizes and encourages the efforts and teamwork of educators and school authorities. It highlights the quality and excellence of the actions of all those who believe that arts and cultural education should be offered in school, and who have developed an educational project to promote arts and cultural education in their institutions.
At the ceremony, to be presided over by Principal Raizel Candib, Merton will receive two cash prizes, one from Hydro-Québec for $1000 and another from the Minister of Education for $1000. In addition, the school will be award a Yamaha keyboard valued at $500 from Yamaha Canada Music Ltd. The second place prize-winner, École Secondaire Chomedey de Maisonneuve, will receive a cash prize of $1000 jointly presented by the Ministry of Culture and Communications and the Ministry of Education.
With the full support of the school principal, teacher Gloria Chalupovitsch planned the project and guided her students throughout the process. They also used cross-curriculum approaches so that specialists on staff such as the principal, librarian, music, gym, and computer teachers worked in collaboration to support the special project. Mrs. Candib sang ballads for the students. Music teacher, David Eves, assisted the classroom teacher by familiarizing students with Medieval music; gym teacher, Molo Finelli taught a select number of students to be Medieval court jesters by juggling balls in the air; computer specialist Fernand Deschamps helped students with the visual display of their projects and participated in the Fair by video taping the event while dressed up in a period costume and the caretaker of the school building assisted in transforming the gym into a spectacular Medieval setting. The motivation, cooperation and enthusiasm of everyone involved were essential in making the Merton School Medieval Fair an outstanding, prize winning event- "a true happening."
There was a time when artistic activities in school were in a special category reserved for the more gifted students. Since the introduction of the Arts curriculum in 1991 and the adoption of a cultural policy by the Quebec government a year later, much has changed. The arts, as now taught in many of Quebec’s schools, are a reflection of the importance granted not only to the quality, but also to the cultural dimension of arts education.
Merton is a French Immersion school which serves a diverse population. Many students have not been exposed to culture and arts. Consequently, integrating culture and arts into the school curriculum has become of primary importance since it not only supports the new Quebec educational reform, but because it benefits the students. The promotion of the arts is done by inviting artists, writers, musicians and theatre groups to the school through several cultural venues such as the Culture in the Schools sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Ministry of Education. Merton students also are involved in numerous culture-based projects which promote drama, visual arts, dance and music and theatre production.
This award winning project was created to give the students a comprehensive understanding of the Medieval Era by having them study and learn about this interesting period in history through project-based learning. Through art and research, different aspects of the Middle Ages were taught: historical time lines, the Feudal system, guilds, crafts, the ballad as a form of poetry and music, inventions in the Middle Ages, clothing, level of literacy in medieval times, money system, architecture, frescos and other art styles. Through writing journal entries on prominent people and living history journals the students learned about the reality of daily life in that era.
The art work and projects the children made were used to create the Medieval Fair. This allowed students to experience being a character in the Middle Ages. Student research was displayed on large poster boards. They dressed up in period costumes and set up booths around the gym representing guilds and different merchants displaying their wares. Other tables had displays of chessboards, jewelry, swords, and shields. Some students were trained to be jesters by juggling balls, others were knights, princesses, Robin Hood, kings and lords. There were artistic representations of gargoyles made out of clay, masks, models of castles and frescos demonstrating the art of the Medieval Period.
For guests who came to see the Fair, there was a mystery "Quest." Visitors were given a sheet of paper with different characters, places and objects and were challenged to solve a mystery. This forced them to thoroughly explore the fair and to learn about the Middle Ages themselves. As part of the program at the Fair, children also put on vignettes of different events such as the signing of the Magna Carta 1215, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the trial of Joan of Arc.
Two classes of 52 students were involved in each stage of the project. Professional artists were hired for a total of six one-hour visits to teach the children about castle-building, jewelry- making and gargoyles. There was a professional drama teacher who developed the different vignettes that the students performed for the Medieval Fair.
The organizations used to promote an understanding of the arts and culture included the Saidye Bronfman Cultural Arts Centre and the Concordia University Fine Arts Internship program. Specialists were hired through the Merton Step 5 program coordinator, Adele Nessim, and funding was supplemented by the Home and School Association and by Grade 6 teacher, Gloria Chalupovitsch’s student teaching funds.
Michael J. Cohen