At first glance, it's clear that Nootka Elementary is a different kind of school. A multicolour mural of reds, yellows, greens and blues leads up to the main entrance of the school. It is an ideal reflection of the artistic expression found within its walls.
Art projects adorn the hallways of Nootka, leading the way to a variety of classrooms where children enthusiastically sculpt clay models, learn what sounds different drum instruments make and practice dancing within a contained and fully developed studio.
These learning experiences are developed for students of the Nootka Fine Arts program, beginning with kindergarten enrollment and culminating in Grade 7 graduation. It's an integrated program that blends standard curriculum instruction with intuitive lessons in dance, drama, visual arts and music.
Combining their artistic classes of drama, dance and music into an upcoming performance of 'Puff the Magic Dragon', students of David Epp's Grade 2 class are noticeably animated in talking about how the Fine Arts program has influenced them.
"We do lots of art and we get to be creative," says Izaiah Anchel, 7 years old. "It's great because I have quite a lot of energy and there's lots to do with it."
Another student of Mr. Epp's, Lola Rocchetta, has a pre-established familial history at the elementary school. Her older sister is a current student of the program and both her parents, two of her uncles and an aunt are among the Nootka alumni.
As of 2007, graduates of the Fine Arts program are offered a place at Windermere Athena High School's Fine Arts Program.
Having a promising future and artistic outlook is key to students' success. To complement this, Nootka Principal Kerri Wallin also emphasizes the importance of looking to our heritage and roots.
Throughout the school, three pieces of Aboriginal art hang on the walls. Made by Northwest Coast artist Maynard Johnny, Wallin explains the pieces were deliberately placed in accessible and welcoming areas of the school.
"As part of the enhancement project in our schools, if you are a student of Aboriginal heritage you should feel like you have a home in VSB schools."
With a Fine Arts program that encourages artistic expression of its students, as well as an environment that is both welcoming and visually enticing to its visitors, Nootka is a great place to learn.
Ashley Stewart, 7 years old, agrees.
"Sometimes the boys can get super silly, but it's really fun to do singing, art and dancing. It's different from other schools, but also very special to me," explains Stewart.
Click here for more information on the Nootka Elementary Fine Arts Program
Click on the image below to check out our Flickr album for more photos.