A global story unfolded on campus when Grade 9 students from Branksome Hall Asia came to visit their Canadian counterparts for the Grade 9 Global Leaders Program. Collaborating in international teams, the girls enjoyed activities that combined English, History and Arts as they researched the stories of women in Toronto.
Bonds of friendship grew throughout the week as each team used these stories as inspiration for their final interactive arts exhibit, focusing on empathy and our common humanity. The central idea was for girls to learn that there are always many points of view that underpin the culture and history of our city.
On Day 1, groups of students fanned out across Toronto for an activity styled after the Amazing Race. In Little Italy, they discovered the story of Louisa Guagneli, who had been designated an “enemy alien” and interned during WWII in the Kingston Penitentiary.
In Old Toronto, the girls learned about Mary Ann Shad, an anti-slavery activist and the first black female newspaper publisher in Canada. Students worked together to navigate parts of Toronto some of them had never seen before and to complete challenges, such as translating a Koreatown menu into three languages.
On Day 2, the scholars visited a fascinating array of organizations that reflect the diversity of women in Toronto, including the Akasha Art Projects, CAMH, Variety Village, Kerry’s Place, and Handicare International. At The Holocaust Education Centre, they heard the story of co-founder and holocaust survivor Gerta Frieberg, who has given testimony at the trials of Holocaust deniers.
Eight visiting artists led workshops on the third day that challenged the girls to go beyond their comfort zone. Students sang their names in a vocal workshop with Carol Ann Weaver and created a dance, based on their Amazing Race research, with choreographer Katarina Rajkovic-Corbic.
“Go ahead and make a mess,” said painting teacher Amanda Clyne. “Painting starts to teach you something when you do something you couldn’t predict.”
A creative writing workshop with Matthew Edison taught the girls about how to construct a short story. With one person writing the story and the other developing the characters, students were given plenty of opportunities to collaborate.
On the final day, students displayed their extremely creative array of artworks and performance art in the Athletics and Wellness Centre. They talked to visitors about their art and what they had learned.
The Creative Directors of Akasha Art Projects, Kelly Kyle and Sonja Scharf, inspired Eunjae and Irina. “We were inspired by how independent women can be as artists,” said Eunjae. “That is why the central figure in my painting is yellow, it makes the woman shine!”
Kerry’s Place inspired Anna and Izzy to create an audio soundtrack from the point of view of someone with autism. “I wanted to challenge stereotypes by understanding the point of view of someone with autism,” said Anna. “My soundtrack attempts to reflect how some people living with ASD hear the world around them.”
“There has been an electric feeling in the room today as everyone showed commitment, focus and an appreciation of each other’s work,” said Drama teacher Ms Boisvert in her closing remarks.
The Branksome Hall Asia and Branksome Hall Canada students are to be commended for their courage in approaching a new experience from a place of curiosity.
This culturally immersive program between our two schools shows how sharing stories can create meaningful connections between Toronto and Jeju Island, between the women of the past and the present, and between Branksome girls from across the globe.