Athena Program Takes the Arts to New Levels

As the rain patters down outside Windermere Secondary, one classroom is bursting with energy as its students meticulously work to craft small "sushi" candles. Every five minutes, a small cluster of teens will burst into spontaneous song. A sort of impromptu "whistle while you work" for some of the district's more artistically driven students.

The students are part of a small but growing about program called Athena Program for the arts. The program is comprised of Grade 8 to 12 students, many of whom hail from the fine arts program of nearby Nootka Elementary School.

The program's known district wide for its creativity. Its musicals (like Jill and Edna's Excellent Adventure or "Smathacot") are legendary in the school community and a highlight for the student participants.

The majority of teens enrolled in the program are artsy and quirky with a strong bend towards the arts, sculpting, drawing, dancing and song.

"It attracts a really good crowd socially," says Talya Perla, a Grade 12 Athena student. "It's a very fun and understanding surrounding."

Dylan Rekers agrees. He's a Grade 10 who loves dancing and sculpting. He notes that Athena has a very tight cohort of students from all grades. The program keeps the students working closely together and so students "don't have to constantly try to make new friends."

But while the program focusses attention on the arts, it's also designed to introduce students to other core subjects like math in an engaging way.

Take the sushi candles. Clustered around the small multi-colour wax spreads, students work to measure, cut and roll the wax into "sushi roll" form. It's fun and crafty, but it also requires them to chart out the design of the candles with mathematical formulas.

The end result is a cross-disciplinary exercise that makes math, if not interesting, at least tolerable.

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