Collecting pebbles and other materials for the "Personal Journeys" project with the UBCO students.

Personal Journeys Collaborative Project

Collaborative Project for a Community Exhibition

On Tuesday September 20th students in the second year of the Elementary Teacher Education Program will be painting stones. We are submitting a proposal for a jury to consider as a contribution for an exhibition in support of the Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA). The theme is  Expressions of Death: Personal Journeys, at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art from October 28 until November 12, 2016.  

The Proposal

For our project we have taken bark sections from a fallen tree. We would like to fill it with artifacts that we collect and create. On Tuesday, students should each bring at least one special smooth stone, chosen to fit comfortably into the palm of a hand. These could be compared to amulets or other small objects, created even in ancient times, to be carried in pouches or pockets, to pass on as gifts, or to hold for meditation.

Each stone will have painted designs added by students, including at least one mantra word. If you prefer, you could make a “six word memoir” of your own, or you could choose a short quotation.  Consider your own experiences, values, memories, fears, life lessons, and bucket list.

The cedar vessel and some of the natural objects such as feathers, birch bark, and tiny shells will reflect fragility and impermanence*, but the artifacts will potentially be everlasting keepsakes with personal meaning to each of the contributors.

A possible title for the collaborative piece will be “Foundation Stones” but we will finalize our choice in class.

*The wood will be returned to the forest floor at the end of the exhibition. Artifacts will be returned to participants, to keep or to give away.

How does this Relate to Art Education for Children?

Our university student contributors will be teachers in the very near future. They will be supporting children who may sometimes be facing difficult challenges. Art is a crucial part of expression and communication, especially for children. The arts help us integrate our perceptions, thoughts and feelings. They help us to develop empathy and even find catharsis, contributing to personal health and human connections.

In class we will also discuss how this theme, the participatory community approach and the use of natural materials all tie in with our new British Columbia Curriculum and also with First Peoples Principles of Learning.

Meditation Stones, Painted Pebbles and Personal Artifacts

Examples – Drawing and Painting on Stones

Yoran Morvant
Pierres Graphiques

Painted Gilded Stones

Fine point pen example
by Marilyn Rob
EarthnFire Designs

The Theme

The COHA theme is open to interpretation, but we can start by visiting the  Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA)  website to see what they do for our community.

There are many ways to open discussions for a project like this. An interesting starting point for a classroom teacher could be to look at Larry Smith’s  SIX WORD MEMORY PROJECT  along with related children’s art examples.

“Life is better in soft pyjamas.” (Emily, age 8) This child’s six-word memoir example is from a TED talk by Larry Smith (7:22). We will not have time in class to watch the full video, but the link is here for people who might be interested in viewing it at another time. There are also school examples and resources on Larry Smith’s own website:

For our UBC group project, we will start by brainstorming words and ideas for writing on our stones. Then we will draw and paint on our stones, including some of the words in our designs. The focus will be on the things that bring joy, comfort and strength to each of us. To help explain how this ties in with hospice, life/death issues and creativity, here is an information link to an article by Angela Gargano for the SCOPE blog produced by the Stanford University School of Medicine. It is entitled On life, death and David Bowie: A palliative care physician shares words of wisdom

Historical and Cultural Connections

This project offers many possibilities for teaching and learning connections.

For example, teachers could share some history about ancient civilizations including nomadic Dorset people with their miniature carvings and amulets. They could even look at cave paintings.

Consider Examples of Projects by Influential  Artists


Creative work with natural materials

The British environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy would be a very interesting artist to study with students.

Of particular interest when looking at his work, consider his transformation of living environments, his use of positive and negative space, the manipulation of natural local materials, and the beauty of rich earthy colours.


Participatory art with calls for contributions on difficult issues
There are many ways to be an artist and many possibilities for collaboration.

There are sometimes example of participatory art projects on a global scale, which would be very interesting for students. For example, at the time of our project, Yoko Ono put out a worldwide call for contributions to a project about women’s experiences. Yoko Ono’s 2016 “Arising” project opens on October 7, 2016 in an exhibition at the Reykjavik Museum in Iceland. The show runs until February 5th, 2017, with new additions accepted even after the show has opened.



The title is GROUNDWORK

Congratulations to all of the ETEP II students! Thank you for your thoughtful and enthusiastic participation.

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