On the 40 minute flight from Kuujjuaq to Kangiqsualujjuaq, we arrive at 1:30 p.m. and are welcomed by the spectacular granite mountainous landscape surrounding the village. Kangiqsualujjuaq (ᑲᖏᖅᓱᐊᓗᔾᔪᐊᖅ), Inuktitut for “the very large bay”, is home to nearly 1000 residents who have enviable views of the George River to the West. It’s located 160 km northeast of Kuujjuaq and 1,688km northeast of Montreal. It is a beautiful day of sun and blue sky with white snow covering the hills surrounding the village. By the time we reach the hotel, the sun is already getting lower in the sky and the early sunset is imminent. I rush outside as soon as I check-in and drop my bags in my room. The children are sledding down the road leading down to the river and I smile as I pass them. It is low tide and the river is mostly rock and snow. The hills on the far side of the river catch the last of the sun and by 3:30 p.m. the sky is a deep twilight blue.
The Delivery Team
Most of our program delivery work took place at the Ulluriaq School from November 25 to November 29, 2019. In nearly 30 hours of teaching time we were able to work with 58 secondary school students. We held four classes each day covering a range of design topics which included hands-on training in particular design software. The aim was to keep the participants interested and engaged while also learning important digital skills. We focused on GraphicsGale, Scratch, Twine, MagicaVoxel, and Krita.
First, we started with GraphicsGale a program that allows users to create pixel art. This was very popular with students and was a great lesson to kick off the week with. We began by having the participants create very simple animated smiley faces and moving on to designing Mario and Luigi from large lego sculptures. Some students chose to print out their own characters and design from 2D.
One very enthusiastic student, Stella, whose parents I happened to sit next to on the plane ride to Kuujjuaq, took very quickly to GraphicsGale. She ended up creating a 50 frame animation that featured a lovely meditative flow of colours and patterns, rising and falling, and flowing up and down the screen. It was a beautiful thing to see!
On day three we explored Twine, encouraging students to explore the notion of storytelling. We encouraged expressing their stories in terms of their local culture and used the imagery of Kangiqsualujjuaq places in our lessons, as well as local customs for being on the land and water. By the end of the week, the students had managed to find a good balance between directed activity and discovery, giving them the confidence to further explore ideas and concepts. The kids were very excited about their progress.
The students in Lulu’s class were very interested in creating pixel art characters. One student, Trey created amazing work in every program. For others, it was particular programs that inspired them. Travis created an interactive list of all of the spring camping locations in the area using Twine. Scott and Hailey built world graphics using MagicaVoxel. Louisa made her “happy place” world with the 3D modeling program. Even the teachers were getting involved, learning the software alongside their students.
Many of the kids were really excited about what we had shown them and were very happy to hear that we were leaving the computers and software programs there at the school permanently for them to practice on (thanks to the Computers For Success Program!). One teacher started an ongoing after-school Computer Club and the teachers were already planning many follow-up lessons using the software. It was great to see them so inspired by what they were able to create by the end of the week.
Torngat Mountains National Park
It was a long but rewarding week. We ended the trip with a walk up to the Torngat Mountains National Park entrance and lookout. It was a wonderful end to an even better experience in the village.
With the surrounding land and water, it’s easy to understand why Kangiqsualujjuaq is based on the industries of hunting, fishing, and the production of Inuit art. And judging by the enthusiasm and skills shown by the program participants this week, it’s obvious that there is more budding artist talent on the horizon.