CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: The Serendipity of Life

English Language Arts
3 to 4 lessons
To conduct research about the career and personality of Karen Kain
In this activity, students work in groups to present a timeline of Karen Kain’s career highlights and challenges. They will find specific references in the CBC clips to personal qualities the dancer possessed, and students will consider whether they assisted her in achieving her goals.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring


Tell students that Karen Kain has been referred to by some as the "foremost dancer in the country." Explain that Kain's mother wanted an activity for her 6-year-old daughter that was within walking distance of their home. There happened to be a ballet school nearby and so Karen was enrolled. One reporter later referred to this as the "serendipity of life." Discuss the meaning of "serendipity of life." Ask students to reflect on what they know about Kain's successful career and then comment on whether they believe "serendipity" played a role in her success and, if so, to what extent. Have them discuss any other factors that they think would have contributed to her successful dancing career.

Outline the Opportunity


Direct students to the clips "Why ballet," "Kain draw acclaim abroad," "The pains of ballet," "Media crowds outside Kain's wedding," "Not just a ballerina," "Ballet's ups and downs," "Dancers go toe to toe with Mike Harris" and "Swan song" of the topic Karen Kain, Prima Ballerina on the CBC Digital Archives website. In groups of four, they research Kain's career highlights and challenges and the personal qualities that led her to become the principal ballerina of the National Ballet of Canada and the "foremost dancer in the country." When the research is completed, students compile the information and make a timeline about Karen Kain's career highlights and challenges. Under each career event, students are to list the personal qualities that assisted Karen Kain in achieving that career goal.

Revisit and Reflect

Groups can share their timelines and determine what they believe is Karen Kain's career highlight and her most difficult challenge. After all groups have presented, revisit the term "serendipity of life" and ask students to re-examine whether or not, and to what extent, "serendipity" played a role in Kain's career. Pose the challenge: If Karen Kain's mother had not chosen ballet for her daughter, do you think Karen would still be famous? Use the personal qualities listed in your timeline to justify your answer.


Students can write a reflection about a skill they have or an activity they perform very well. They may wish to consider these questions:


  • What personal qualities do you possess that help you perform the skill or activity well?
  • How did you go about obtaining the skill or learning how to perform the activity?
  • What do you do to improve it?
  • What role, if any, has the "serendipity of life" played in your pursuit of this skill or activity?


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