A creative journey of discovering where our food comes from, in this particular journey we investigate the fascinating story of the chocolate tree. Although, we rarely think about seeds, nine out of every ten bites of food we eat today start with seeds and chocolate begins as a seed too.
Through a series of hands-on workshops the students learned about the life cycles of the chocolate tree and their significance in our culture today. Guided by local artist Marghanita Hughes, grades 3,4, and 5 students explored and observed on hikes in the forest and by the lakeshore.
Then discovered more through meditation, clay work, wire sculptures and wall hanging projects. These creative explorations helped the students recognize a deeper understanding of how interconnected we are to our food and to all life. We completed our collective journey with a short colourful dance performance.
Workshop One – The Chocolate Tree – Storytelling with Nature
We explored the culture and history of chocolate and the chocolate tree. We learned that storytelling has always been around in all cultures. Drawings and sketches, dating back to 9000 BC are another powerful form of storytelling. Having learned a bit about the chocolate tree the students were asked to close their eyes and imagine shrinking down to the size of their hand so they could explore the tree as a small being, or creature.
How did they feel – what did they see? Imagine! They explored the notion that their little stick character can also be a storyteller.
Students then created their own little book character that would share a little bit about the chocolate tree in their mini picture books.
Workshop Two – Wire Bird Sculptures
Continuing our creative exploration we discovered that birds and other living organisms play a vital role in the survival of the chocolate tree. The birds help with seed dispersal and we also learned that local fruit trees in the Okanagan also rely on other organisms for their survival. In this workshop the students looked at the work of several wire artists then made their very own wire bird sculptures.
We discussed local birds and how they can play a vital role in life cycle of our local orchards. Students learned how the lives of birds are connected with the lives of plants, trees and other animals.
Building Community through the Arts
Workshop Three – Gardening – Local Organic Farmers Visit School
We were very fortunate to have local organic orchard farmers, Jim and Lorena Wood visit the school where they presented a wonderfully inspiring hands on workshop, sharing with us the amazing benefits of growing your own fruit and vegetables.
64 students got to plant up a tomato seedling and learned how to nurture the plant once they took it home. 17 kindergarten students kept their potted tomato plants in their classroom to record the growth of each plant.
Mrs. Daley’s class planted 3 of the tomato plants in the school garden and we will be weeding and watering the garden providing yet another on going opportunity for investigation throughout the growing season.
Workshop Four – Students visit College – Bean to Bar presentation
47 students attended a fascinating workshop all about the history, culture and geographical journey of chocolate, and the processes from bean to Bar, presented by Chef Danny Capodouca (Pastry Arts Instructor)
Chef Danny had a wealth of knowledge to share with the students including his own personal journey on becoming a chef and how to make your own “healthier” chocolate. Students and teachers got to sample many chocolates, a freshly made chocolate mousse and even Danny’s very own chocolate he made in France.
The students also had a tour of the chefs’ kitchens where they make, bake and invent new recipes. (Interview with Chef Danny available soon)
Workshop Five – Graphic Design and sustainability
We explored graphic design and sustainable packaging, then the students designed their very own chocolate bar wrapper.
We discussed what local ingredients could be added to our chocolate bars and ways we could promote a healthier lifestyle and help raise awareness of environmental issues. Many students decided that for every bar they sold, a donation would go to certain charities that helped endangered birds and animals.
Workshop Six – Canvas Wall-Hangings
Interbeing – Investigating a beautiful written passage by Thich Nhat Hahn – “If you were a poet”
Having identified similarities in the chocolate tree and local fruit tree life cycles, the students were invited to produce their own interpretation of “Interbeing” through a series of paintings and sketches. The students were then put into groups of 4 to collaborate with fellow student artists on a collective piece for a large canvas wall hanging using earth paint. This offered the students to communicate and collaborate as a group, to be able to be inspired by each other, and each others art work and to work as a team.
We Protect What We Love
These beautiful fabric wall hangings are the students interpretation of the passage Interbeing. The students had learned from our previous workshop that the “Cacao” tree depends upon many other living organisms, such as the birds for seed dispersal, the mother trees to protect the chocolate tree from too much sun and harsh winds, and the Midge to pollinate the tree – they explored how the local fruit trees in the Okanagan, also depend upon many other living organisms – this understanding helped inspire their stunning creations.
During our creative exploration we discovered no matter where we live in the world we are deeply connected to one another and all life. The word Interbeing, reminds us of our beautiful relationship with the natural world; with all life. The students relationship with the natural world is strengthened through meaningful nature art.
Workshop Seven – Meditation Pebbles
Following on from the Interbeing investigation the students take a closer look at our interconnection through simple meditation. Using the 4 elements, earth, water, fire and air as their source of inspiration the students visited the lakeshore at Gellatly Nut Farm.
Relaxing in the sunshine and fresh air, with the Okanagan lake and mountains as the backdrop, the students took inspiration from their surroundings to create their meditation pebbles.
They learned simple meditation exercises using their own meditation pebbles they created on site. They also created a felt pouch to store their pebbles in and a booklet to remind them of each elements meditation.
Mr. Howell’s class wrote their meditation booklet in French.
Workshop Eight – Movement and Dance
Dance instructor Lucy Hazelwoodjoined us at school to invite students to investigate the beautiful classical piece of music – the “Four Seasons” by Vivaldi. The children explored how the story of the chocolate tree could inspire movement in dance. The notion that dance can be used for story telling as well as enjoyment. We were able to simplify the idea to consider the growth of a tree and the interbeing of the weather system in this process – how one affects and interacts with the other. We identified with local trees and used the Seasons as a structure for the dance. The music was also indicative of the seasons but a secondary element in our exploration of free movement and creative dance.
Workshop Nine – Little Clay Giving Bowls
Celebrating our inter-connectedness
Blessing Bowls: In this particular workshop we learned about clay – where it comes from and when we as humans began using it as a natural resource for making items of use, and that it is still used today.
Each student learned how to make a simple pinch pot from a piece of clay. 47 students decorated their pots inspired by local fruit trees and what they had learned about the cocoa tree.
Making Art is all about the process, not the finished product
“I loved working with the clay, I couldn’t believe I could make a blessing bowl” – grade 4 student
Developing An Appreciation for the Arts
The Aztec People used their clay vessels to drink their chocolate from and designed elaborate illustrations to decorate their bowls and vessels. The students learned about blessings (and gratitude) and how we too can be grateful for our inter connectedness; and so our little pinch pots became blessing bowls. The students were invited to create a little script for a loved one, to gift their blessing bowl, as a thank you their love just as we are grateful, for all the love we receive – from all life.
Workshop Ten – Healthy Chocolate Raw Balls and Mindful Eating
Our final creative exploration was making our very own chocolate healthy treats (raw balls) – to share with our audience at the performance on 1st June. The students learned about how certain chocolate can be good for you and what chocolate is unhealthy. Their creations were made in the classroom using chef Danny’s chocolate and other local ingredients.
The students learned the importance of healthy snacks and the nutritional value of their chocolate balls.
“I want to be a chef” – grade 5 student
“I ‘m going to open up a choclate shop when I am older” – grade 4 student
The students also learned how to practice mindful eating. What they learned can be carried through, to make new healthy snacks at home using the knowledge they have gained from the chef and the making of their very own chocolate balls. And to be more conscious in their choices on what food (and snacks) they purchase and where they come from.
Workshop Eleven – Final Presentation to school and parents
Parents and other school students were invited to our final presentation which took place in the school gym. Students performed their short dance then headed over to their display tables where they showcased their artwork they had created over the last 6 weeks.
Sharing their stories with the visitors and some of their handmade chocolates too.
We are excited to announce the students Wall Hangings will be exhibited for the public to view- details to follow shortly.
” We discovered that all the subjects in school can be part of an art program.” – Vanessa Daley – Elementary Teacher
This project was supported by an Artists in the Classroom grant disbursed by ArtStarts in Schools and funded by BC Arts Council and the Government of British Columbia’s Creative Futures Program.
If you would like to learn more about Artists in the Classroom grants please visit: Artstarts
If you are interested in any of my workshops above or would like me to visit your school -simply leave a message below or contact me by email, I would love to share this beautiful, creative journey with you and your students. Many of the nature art workshops are from my online program that you can join at anytime – NATURE ART PROGRAM
Wishing you all an enchanting week ahead, with love and deep gratitude Marghanita x