Field Trip: Urban Geography & the Canadian Identity

Rising From The RubbleOur students are faced with planning cultural outings over the course of the year that occasionally turn into full-fledged field trips. While other events are attended by handfuls of students – it is expected that each TALONS class member attends three cultural events – others take on such a pertinent range of learning opportunities, as tomorrow’s excursion downtown does, that we arrange our two blocks of study around a trip for all to benefit from.

Saskia has organized tomorrow’s adventure around catching the Vancouver Art Gallery‘s exhibit on the early painting and photography (1860 – 1918) of the North American landscape, as well as the sketched collection of Canada’s Group of Seven, whom we have already studied as creators, and communicators of the Canadian identity.

On our way to the art gallery, we will also be visiting Vancouver’s Chinatown, and otherwise undertaking the journey from our suburb into the heart of downtown on foot and public transit, taking the bus and SkyTrain, arriving between the Olympic venues of BC and GM Place, and walking through the heart of the 2010 village.

Covering English, history, and science, our class spends a lot of time investigating, exploring and discussing our local environments and their influence on our individual and collective identities. And while the inspiration for these discussions is often the natural world – as our forays into the local woods, islands, inlets and otherwise bring about a sense of belonging in a place inhabited for some ten thousand years that cannot help but build one’s affinity – adopted or otherwise – with a sense of home, there is a strange energy that comes with our visits to The City.

In the fall, we make an annual research venture to the Vancouver Public Library and the downtown core’s independent booksellers to gather material for the initial stages of the Eminent Person Study. For many of our grade nine students, the trip is an introduction to Hastings Street, and the truly urban environment of western Canada’s temperate capital is capable of overwhelming many in the way that Manhattan must astound the youngsters of Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.False Creek Transit

Tomorrow though, these very same students head into the city with a vague sense of what to expect. Our intentions are to experience the city’s diverse culture, transit, people and public collection of art which is indisputably a national treasure. The benefits of such additions to one’s education are invaluable, as these glimpses of our urban center balance the culture of our wild places with a potency of vibrant life, architecture and identity that is unique to Vancouver. With the Olympics set to begin a month from today, we are irretrievably on the verge of the city never being the same again, and I look forward to seeing and sharing the trip with 27 sets of the youthful eyes that will take up the creation of our local, provincial and national identity in the Games’ impeding wake.

As a means of focusing the trip, and beginning the artistic creation of our collective identity beginning tomorrow (and continuing, really, every day), I will be asking the students to identify and report on a moment of experienced, realized, or witnessed Canadiana on their blogs. Whether this ends up as a blog post with a cell-phone video shot street side, or a reflection, description or meditation on a local landmark, character, or painting, I am not bothering to prescribe. But to live out the intentions of Goethe‘s quotation that “A person sees in the world what they carry in their heart,” I look forward to the expressions that tomorrow afternoon yields.

As ever, I will be quick to share the postings as they come in.