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November 29, 2022

Mythological Creatures from Montreal to Gaspé: An Intercollegiate Project Combining Psychology and Visual Arts

This real life story is a translation of a text first published in Eductive’s French edition.

From Montreal to Gaspé, our students participated in a unique intercollegiate and interdisciplinary collaborative project in which psychology and visual arts brought mythological creatures to life in the form of holographic projections.

A pedagogical encounter

The collaboration was born out of an exchange Stéphanie had with Anne-Marie Lafortune, an ESL teacher at the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, at the SALTISE 2021 conference, where they were both on the same panel. Stephanie mentioned to Anne-Marie that she wanted to collaborate with a teacher. Anne-Marie immediately thought of her colleague Madeleine! That’s how our collaboration was born! Everything fell neatly into place because we both had small groups of 6 students, which made it easier to pair students.

1 common project, 2 different aims

Madeleine

The idea of mythological creatures is an extension of a project that I have been doing for a few years in my Developmental Psychology courses when I approach attachment theory. It is an opportunity for me to work on knowledge, skills and certain aspects of attitude through introspective reflection.

In this project, students revisit bits and pieces of their relational history, from childhood to adulthood. Attachment theory allows them to decode certain behaviours that involve the important people in their lives. The process strengthens their self-awareness.

To add a playfulness to the subject matter and to facilitate introspection in my students, I slip some elements inspired by the visual arts into my teaching. The proposed game allows for a lighter approach to complex issues. Without diminishing the depth of the issues addressed, my intention is to create a classroom climate conducive to discussion.

The project begins with the students creating a portrait of relational characteristics that they must transform into an animal analogy. This is a universal language in which they spontaneously find similarities between certain features of their relational style and the poetry of animal language. The portrait should be composed of 3 parts of different animals illustrating certain characteristics of their way of relating to others.

In a room with large windows giving onto a red brick wall, several workstations, consisting of a table, a chair and a desk lamp, are set up along the walls and windows. On a round, black table, which is illuminated by a dim light from a yellow fabric lamp shade, art materials are available for all students (glue, markers, brushes, colour pencils...). A bin filled with pictures and magazines is placed on the black table. A student wearing a red vest and jeans flips through the pictures in the bin. Next to her, 2 National Geographic magazines lie on the table. Two other students work individually at workstations along the walls.

In a room of the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, Gaspé campus, 3 of Madeleine’s students are looking for images for their collage.

Once the creature is born, my students have to name it, then write a text that presents its characteristics and link their introspection to the theory and concepts of the great authors studied in class.

On a white background, a collage of a creature was made using 3 separate animals. The creature has the body of a dog with a beige coat, like a Golden Retriever. As a head, a raccoon and the head of a fennec oppose each other.

Example of a collage made by a student in Madeleine’s class

As soon as the collages were completed, the interaction in pairs began (1 student from Gaspé was matched with 1 student from Montreal). My students presented their collage to their peers in Visual Arts at Cégep Marie-Victorin who then use their work as a starting point for an artistic reflection whose final objective is to learn how to create an animated holographic projection.

Stéphanie

My students had already begun to explore the notion of “landscape” in their Media Installation course. They explored the images of their everyday lives, the images that make up their environment in all its forms. With this collaborative project, I wanted my students to discover someone else’s landscape and construct a work that would transform into an animated mythological creature. Following their encounter, this interpretive work was inspired by the collage made by Madeleine’s students.

To do this, Madeleine and I created a fun questionnaire to facilitate the exchange between our students. The questionnaire served as a starting point for the meeting and had different goals:

  • breaking the ice
  • getting to know one another
  • better understanding their partner’s mythological creature

The questions were oriented to allow Madeleine’s students to present their animal based on its strengths, experiences and values.

Here are some of the questions Visual Arts students addressed to Psychology students:

  • What are your strengths?
  • How would you describe your character?
  • How do you behave around others?
  • How do you help others?
  • Under what circumstances are you upset?
  • What are your vulnerabilities or sensitivities?
  • How do you react when you are sad?
  • How do others perceive you?
  • What do you do to counter boredom?

The aim of the final section of the questionnaire was to describe the mythological animal’s landscape, geographic region, and lifestyle. Since this was an animated mythological creature, we could get our students to imagine a new world in which their creature could exist.

The project consisted of getting to know the other person in order to identify bits and pieces of their identity, and then translating them visually through the artist’s lens. The unknown and the element of surprise inherent in the experience were very inspiring.

The pairs preferred to communicate through Messenger. We also created a Facebook group as a rallying point for this project in order to facilitate exchanges and the sharing of completed projects.

Following this 1st meeting, the Visual Arts students recorded their feelings about the meeting in images and words in a research log taking the shape of a Powerpoint file.

Notes taken by Viktoria Boudreau, one of Stéphanie’s students, in their research log after meeting one of Madeleine's students.

Notes taken by Viktoria Boudreau, one of Stéphanie’s students, in their research log after meeting one of Madeleine’s students.

Madeleine

The exchanges that the students had between Gaspé and Montreal were enriching, because they were able to discuss their different realities and their different life paths. Thus, this project allowed our students to meet new people, which added a richness to the adventure.

Stéphanie

Once the information was collected, my students brought their teammate’s mythological creature to life using After Effects software to create animated images featuring a holographic projection inside a transparent pyramid using a screen (cell phone, tablet, television). An oral presentation in the form of a self-interview preceded the animated project in which my students presented their creation.

To share the animations, my students uploaded their video to YouTube in unlisted mode. This step also allowed me to teach them how to host a video and manage its parameters.

Animation made by Long Tran, a Visual Arts student in Stéphanie’s class.

A creature, consisting of a chick's head and body with deer antlers, and fox legs and tail, moves across a stone surface.

Example of a creature made by Long Tran, a student in Stephanie’s class

The holographic projection is projected on a screen inside a small pyramid (made of acetate) and allows the student to work individually with their cell phone and share their creation with Madeleine’s students. In order to view the holographic projections created by my students in the context of an exhibition, I had a large plexiglass pyramid built. We were able to view all the projects as a group.

In a computer room equipped with Apple computers, 5 students (2 girls and 3 boys) are photographed, in a medium shot, between 2 rows of computer stations.

5 of Stephanie’s 6 Visual Arts students who participated in the mythological creatures project

Madeleine

At the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, we organized a private viewing to discover the holographic projections created by Stéphanie’s students. My students were really touched by their pair’s interpretation of their mythological creature.

In the picture, 5 students, placed side by side, look at the camera while toasting with a glass of sparkling apple juice. In front of them, 2 desks are stuck together. On the right desk, there is a touch pad, a smartphone and a translucent acetate pyramid.

5 of the 6 students enrolled in Madeleine’s Psychology course at the private viewing organized at the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, Gaspé campus.

Editor’s Note

Intrigued by the home-made creation of a holographic projection? Here is a short tutorial that explains how to make the translucent plastic (acetate) pyramid and how to use your cell phone as a projection screen.

An exercise in progress

The imperatives of the session forced us to dive headfirst into the project. It is a pedagogical experience that we hope to improve with the possible collaboration of other teaching colleagues.

This multidisciplinary and intercollegiate project was innovative in its approach and generated great enthusiasm among all the participants. It was an individual project that made our groups livelier. One thing is certain: we will repeat the experience!

About the authors

Stéphanie Granger

Stéphanie Granger teaches in the Visual Arts program at Cégep Marie-Victorin. Her teaching methods are inspired by the flipped classroom. She has developed a digital cell phone-based evaluation method, which she shares on Eductive. Since 2020, she has led a pedagogical day at the Visual Arts department of Cégep Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (2020) and has presented various conference talks:

  • Numérique 2020
  • Colloque international en éducation (CRIFPE, 2021)
  • SALTISE conference (2020, 2021)
  • Association québécoise de pédagogie collégiale webinar (2020) and symposium (2021)
Madeleine Veillet

Madeleine Veillet teaches Psychology within the Social Science program at the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles (Gaspé campus). She integrates introspective methods combining writing, visual expression and creativity development techniques into her pedagogy. At the 2008 AQPC symposium, she presented an interdisciplinary collage project as part of the course Intégration des acquis [Integration of Prior Learning] in Social Science. In 2012, she organized conferences and creative workshops on the benefits of creativity on mental health: Talent fou: Éloge du bonheur et de la créativité [Mad Talent: In Praise of Happiness and Creativity]. Since 2012, she has been co-leading an interdisciplinary extracurricular project inviting students to explore themselves through arts and crafts workshops.

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