Opera, science and sustainability – a global approach celebrated through Arts Award
BY: Guest Writer
06 Nov 2023
We’re kicking off our Sustainability theme for November on the Arts Award blog, by speaking to Jonathan Harris, Head of Academy Music at The Premier Academy. He tells us about an exciting project where young people have been working towards their Arts Award Discover and Explore through learning about space and sustainability, whilst creating an opera linked to these themes. The Premier Academy is a Trinity Champion Centre and is a single-trust Academy based in a socio-economically deprived area of Milton Keynes. In 2023, all their Year 5s (90 children) achieved Arts Award Discover, and all their Year 6s (91) achieved Arts Award Explore.
“Today we’ve had a good luck message from NASA headquarters, and from a Professor of Astrophysics in California!” It’s a class music lesson at The Premier Academy and the Year 5s are creating a scene for this year’s Global Science Opera, Unfold The Universe. The publicity poster is on the whiteboard with the school logo standing proudly next to NASA’s, just below an image taken by the James Webb Telescope.
What’s going on? The Year 5s have been exploring space, the origins of the universe, learning about the James Webb Telescope and the work of NASA, and considering how this can support our work in protecting planet Earth and its ecosystems for humans and animals to live safely and peacefully on for years to come. All this learning is brought together to create a scene to be shown as part of this year’s international Global Science Opera project that will be broadcast live around the world on 20 November to mark World Children’s Day.
Their scene, alongside those created by children and students from around 35 countries, will be watched on every habited continent, including at NASA headquarters who have been in touch with the children to encourage them in their creativity (we are fortunate to have some excellent connections including in the international science community). In the morning of the live broadcast, the children will be speaking via Zoom to Year 5s and 6s in an Australian school who are also involved, to learn about their culture and the work they have done to create their own scene. Both schools have also created a collaborative dance scene for the opera alongside children from Norway, Croatia and Greece; and we have a shared interest in robotics, so we often get distracted watching the latest robot the Australian children have built!
Global Science Opera is an international collaborative initiative where children, students and educators from across the world work together to produce an annual online opera. The 2021 opera Thrive took the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration as its theme. The 2020 opera Energize focused on sustainable energy. Participants explore the theme and create scenes together with other countries using a variety of art forms (dance, drama, music, eco-scenography etc.) and form a storyline connecting and exploring science and sustainability through the arts. The Year 5s will be using their engagement with this project as the basis for Part A of their Arts Award Discover journey on opera.
The Global Science Opera project is about changing minds, producing creative thinkers and imaginative problem solvers. It is also about widening expectations on what is possible, raising awareness of and finding solutions to sustainability issues, showing what can be achieved through the powers of technology and working together, and reaching out across the world impacting positively on the schools, communities, parents and families of the children, students and teachers involved. It is an excellent example of an international STEAM educational initiative that is creating sustainable futures through the arts. One state in Brazil has just adopted the project as part of its educational programme for all their secondary schools.
At The Premier Academy, several Year 6 children have already contributed to scenes for this year’s opera through a collaborative singing project, and by creating star-gazing videos that students from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be incorporating into their scene. These Year 6s will be using this for Part C of their Explore Arts Award, building on their Discover Award received earlier in 2023 for their work following the Royal Opera House’s Create & Sing programme, which turned out to be an ideal starting point for their contribution to Unfold the Universe.
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