It was a way for young students to have fun with their friends while learning how to create art after school.
The art classes held at St. Edward's Elementary over the past couple of months for Grades 4, 5 and 6 students interested enough to volunteer for the program was deemed a definite success by principal Melvin Critch.
"It's been one of the most successful after school programs that I've been involved in because of the interest shown by the students. They are committed to it, they enjoy it and at the end of the day you can see how pleased and proud they are with what they've accomplished," said the elementary school principal.
Artist and designer Christopher Newhook taught the classes to the two groups of students because the numbers of students interested from last year had increased. Approximately 30 students participated in the program this year.
While the program was lots of fun for the students - Mr. Newhook ensured each hour and a half session after classes ended with a completed or nearly completed piece of art, which were then displayed on the walls of the school's hallways - they learned a number of new skills and increased their sense of self-confidence.
"One of the first important skills they learn is to listen to instructions and follow directions," said Mr. Critch. "When you look at the actual work students are doing, what are they learning? Well, they are learning visual literacy, they are learning different media in how art can be presented. They are using charcoal, pastels, watercolours, printmaking.
"They are learning all those different mediums of art and they are getting an appreciation of how an artist expresses his or her interpretation of an image, or how they see the world and how they can present it. They are also learning about different artists and about the style that the artist uses and the type of medium an artist would use to represent his or her piece of work, and I think that is also so important."
While students work with a variety of techniques and media, they are also increasing their sense of self, said Mr. Critch.
"The students are also learning the power or creativity and the impact it has on what they are doing but also they see others looking at their work and admiring their work and they can be so proud of their accomplishment and you can see it does build self esteem and confidence and they are expressing themselves very freely with their work, and I think that's just great stuff."
Instructor Mr. Newhook prepared a specific project for each class that developed a piece of art that helped them learn new skills and learn about earlier artists.
For example, their project on The Scream, by Edvard Munch, used tempera and pastel. Students were first given an overview of the artist and some historical background on the work in question. They then reviewed important terms and concepts, particularly ways to show distance and space within a drawing, proper ways to handle brushes and paint and how to reproduce colours and layout using freehand. Students were photographed in the classic scream pose, drew their own version of the painting and used their images in the final product.
All the final projects are on display at the Placentia Bay Cultural Art Centre until May 21.
Part of what makes the program so successful, said Mr. Critch, is that the students really enjoy it.
"It is strictly voluntary and the attendance is close on 100 per cent. The kids really enjoy it. They look forward to it and are disappointed if it isn't on. The big question this year in school was if we were going to have the art program. The Grade 4's had heard so much about it and the Grade 6's who were in it last year wanted to have another crack at it."
He said the students' interest is quite obvious when they are showing their work to visitors to the school, and he commended them for their courage.
"They are being risk-takers too because they are doing something really different and they are willing to go out on a limb and produce something that, at the end, they can explain how it came about."
Emilee Hickey is a 12-year old Grade 6 student who is involved with the after school program for the second year.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "I like being with my friends and it is exciting. We get to try a whole bunch of different things. There is something for everybody," she said.
Paul Bavis is 11, and also in Grade 6.
"We are learning to paint using different techniques," he said, adding his favorite project was one in which they used pastels.
Both students said they had an interest in art before they signed up for this program and fully expect to continue creating art into the future.
"I really liked it. We got to try a lot of different things. It was fun," said Ms. Hickey.
For his part, Mr. Newhook said keeping the program fun and fast-paced helped keep the students interested.
Principal Mr. Critch said he would like to see the program continue although it won't be at St. Edward's Elementary, which is closing at the end of the school year in preparation for the restructuring that will happen when the new Laval school opens in September.
"I am really hoping it can be continued because I really see the benefits to it," said Mr. Critch.
Funding for the program came from Eastern School District's Education Foundation and from the Lions Club's donation to the schools.