DAREarts Atlantic – 4Directions1Circle

Two communities create a body of work that inspires and teaches.


First off, we couldn’t have done this project without the financial support of our Lead Sponsor Northbridge Insurance, Atlantic Region Sponsor Scotiabank and Project Supporter RBC Foundation.

When we were planning this project, we asked Chief Rufus Copage who he thought would be a good collaborator with L’nu Sipuk Kina’muokuom (LSK) in  his community of Sipikne’katik (Shubenacadie First Nation). He told us about the Riverside Educational Centre in Milford. We contacted Principal Michael Topshee, who enthusiastically helped us with logistical challenges such as scheduling, location and student transportation.

This year, the Circle was LARGE! The 50+ students involved were from grade 4 to 8, Mi’kmaq and non-Aboriginal. They all wanted to be involved and they all found a special niche for themselves. Since they were exposed to multiple disciplines, they were able to find their own passion, whether it was building the puppets, painting their characters’ images, creating the stories and poems, blocking the scenes, singing on the sound tracks, photographing and filming. Some showed extra initiative, volunteering to narrate the show, direct the younger students, and help the younger ones with their puppets.

The story was structured around four directions, seven teachings and the DAREarts principals of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence. The younger students took on East and South, and the older students tackled West and North. In the Mi’kmaq “Wheel,” There are three additional Directions: Sky, Earth and Self. The entire group explored these additional directions through their paintings, their teamwork, self-expression and reflection.  The stories were complex, as were the characters, which looked eerily like Syliboy’s Petroglyph-inspired figures and lent themselves beautifully to the hose-construction shadow puppets. The resulting program took us through the seasons, from one direction to the next in a remarkably seamless story, given that the two schools were working independently of each other. To see a short video of the production, please visit 4Directions1Circle


The mix of cultures, ages and communities was a potent one, magical, dramatic and thoughtful. The audience loved the atmosphere, especially the visitors from the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, First Nations Cultural Services and the IWK Health Centre for Pediatric Pain Research. What we were achieving with these kids may have a broader reach for purposes beyond traditional learning. It may also have healing properties. A very welcoming idea; proving once again that DAREarts and arts education enrich and, indeed, save lives.

IMG_3982.JPGAlan Syliboy’s contribution, as it was in year one of DAREarts in the Atlantic region, was stellar. He inspired the kids to look deep into themselves, out at the world and across cultural boundaries to find their stories and images. The students were charmed by his paintings, and the NFB video “Little Thunder,” influenced them greatly. And it wasn’t just the students who were star-struck. We had several visits by teachers, who wanted to see what we were doing and tell Alan how enamoured they were of his paintings and films.  If the children didn’t know how famous he is when they first met him, they surely do now, and rightly so. He is Nova Scotia’s artistic jewel. He is a Canadian treasure, and we are so grateful that we had the opportunity to work with him and learn from him.

IMG_3883.JPGAnother gift: newly appointed DAREarts Atlantic Teacher Trish Gibbon joined us for the first time this year. She helped with the organization of the two schools, provided activities and logistical solutions for the two schools. The students love her, and we do too.

We’d  like to acknowledge the donation of project supplies from Halifax Home Depot. The donation of Aeroplan Miles enabled DAREarts Aboriginal Lead and  Mi’kmaq Artist Cathy Elliott to fly to Nova Scotia. To donate your Aeoplan miles, hit the button below and follow the DAREarts Goose!


 Our Lead Atlantic Sponsors: northbridge-insurance-horizontal-positive-BW






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