Since the beginning of the school year, I have had the pleasure to serve as an ArtStarts Artist in the Classroom at South Vancouver’s Trudeau Elementary. With these Grade 4 & 8 students, we have been reclaiming the value of the now obsolete penny through an arts-based inquiry. This 154 year-old, now discontinued form of currency has inspired the students to thoughtfully examine the concept of “worth”, reflecting upon issues related to consumerism, inflation, and global economics, while teaching prudent money management skills. In the jars pictured above, students were asked how they would distribute government funds collected by taxes if “they were the Prime Minister”. Interestingly, the results of this inquiry demonstrated that they have a mature understanding of the nation’s basic needs. Many of their top spending priorities included education, health, shelter and clean water. At the same time, they chose to allocate the greatest proportion of their funds towards Science and Technology, quite indicative of the digital age in which they were born. But they also had the imagination to earmark revenue for vending machines and hot tubs.
Students then explored a range of creative ways to utilize the object of the penny as a means of creative expression. Through word play exercises, related to the project inquiry, students created text that they transformed into prose poems, song lyrics,and an original rap. All of these will be presented in a final performance that will take place on Thursday, December 19th, in front of their entire school. The music for this performance is inspired by the Bare Naked Ladies’ “If I had a Million Dollars”. Students then took the words written by this iconic Canadian band, and composed their own playful and touching lyrics (IE. From “We’d wish a full moon-sized container – Filled with spicy fried chicken wings.” to “We’d build a school in India. – And the Philippines and Nepal.”) In the show, while some students sing their version of this song about value, other students will provide accompaniment on penny whistles. And their rhyming rap will also be paired with penny rattle rhythms.