Charlottetown students set school's anti-bullying motto to music

The Grade 8 concert band at Queen Charlotte Intermediate decided to compose a piece of original music inspired by the new school anti-bullying motto.

'They did really reflect, respect and connect what was put into that song'

Using the new school anti-bullying motto, the band at Queen Charlotte Intermediate in Charlottetown composed a new piece of music. (CBC)

An intermediate school can be a tough place to thrive, and kids often feel pressured to fit in, keep up and be cool.

Staff at Charlottetown's Queen Charlotte Intermediate School noticed last year that bullying was becoming a problem, so they put out a call to students to help create a new school motto in the hopes of fostering closer ties.

The students came back with QC Cares: Reflect, respect, connect.

A 'safe environment'

Vice-principal K.J. White said there's been a big buy-in because the students helped created the motto themselves.

"I think a lot more people are talking in the hallways," White said.

"I noticed a couple of days ago people holding the doors, I've heard people saying, 'Hey can I borrow this, how are you today, I like your sweater.' All the small things that really make a day and really make students happy." 

A new school motto has made a difference in attitude at Queen Charlotte Intermediate, according to staff and students. (CBC)

"From a peer, when they talk [and] care about each other, it really makes the learning hold true and also makes them a role model for each other. And ... the learning environment becomes a really good, safe environment."

'It made a big difference'

Grade 8 student Payton Alexander said the new motto has made a real difference in the school's atmosphere.

"I feel like it's really important because before we came up with that [motto] we had a lot of problems in our school," Alexander said.

"And then when that [motto] came a lot of people started using it more and it made a big difference in our community and our school."

Inspiring a composition

The Grade 8 concert band applied for an ArtsSmarts grant, which helps fund school projects that engage students in artistic activity.

The band's proposal was unique: to compose a piece of original music inspired by the new school motto.

Over the winter, the Grade 8 band worked with teacher Sylvia Andrew and Dr. Richard Covey, professor of theory and composition at UPEI.

Covey and Andrew had the students explore what the words reflect, respect and connect meant to them.

The students then used that imagery to create a musical composition.

The concert band applied for a grant that allowed them to compose an original piece of music. (CBC)

Andrew was impressed by the students' ability to link the pictures in their minds to musical sounds.

"So things like reflecting, looking in a mirror, so that's a visual. So how about an echo? That would be a reflect in music," she said. "We use silences as a sign of respect. Well, can we put silences into our music, and that's also a time for reflection? So the students very easily could relate to that." 

"So the whole idea of starting with reflection like the shimmering sound, if I looked at a lake and I saw the leaves in the trees and everything reflected down we wanted to have that kind of feel, and that's what the piece starts with. And then we have our silences and then those shimmerings just build and build and build."

Conveying ideas through art

Covey enjoyed seeing the confidence of the students grow over the course of the project.

"I hope they came away with an understanding of how music and art can convey important ideas and make us think about important ideas such as community and how we treat others, which is really what the motto is about," he said.

The band recently debuted the new song Reflect Respect Connect for their school.

Reflecting, connecting, respecting

White was struck by the respectful attitude shown by the students.

"It was fabulous to see the band play in front of the whole school and in between the parts it was silent, so were the students," White said. "They did really reflect, respect and connect what was put into that song."

Filmmaker David Rashed followed the students over the past few months and made a documentary about the musical project.

It will be screened Monday night at the ArtsSmarts Open House at the art gallery at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.