Grade 8 woodwork students worked jointly on their skills in the shop and on cultural awareness as they spent recent weeks creating and exploring how to use the cajón, a traditional instrument used by enslaved people of African descent in Peru.
Named for the Spanish word for “box,” the cajón was used to replace the African drums used by enslaved people, which had been banned by their masters. Without anything else on which to play music, they simply used what was on hand, and the items they used evolved into unique instruments.
“They weren’t able to have instruments, so they turned their baskets and crates upside down, sat on them and played music,” Grade 8 student Briar T. explained, noting that the students also learned about human rights while working on the project — specifically the rights to life and freedom.
The students used locally sourced alder wood to build their cajónes, and, according to teacher Mrs. Rainbow Bartlett, learned how to use all the equipment in the shop during the building process. Mrs. Bartlett chose the cajón as a project because it was something that could be built in a relatively short period of time, while converging with a discussion about cultural awareness.
As part of building their drums, the students all came up with symbols that are important to them on a personal level, and incorporated them into the design. When the cajónes are finished, the students will learn how to tap out a rhythm that celebrates diversity and equality. Celebrating the principles of First Nations cultures, students will be invited to gift their first drums.
The Grade 8 project is one of the first to be completed in the newly redesigned shop. The maintenance team has been working hard with Head of Fine Arts Mr. Declan Bartlett to design a new layout for the woodwork shop. The principle behind the changes is to establish a clear and efficient workflow for projects through the shop. It has already had a positive impact on student learning as they can see a more systematic approach to manufacturing with improved zoning of the space.
Further developments are planned and currently being implemented such as new workbenches, improved finishing room and better tool storage. An ongoing program for tool upgrades is underway and we aim to introduce more modern technologies such as CAD and CAM in the near future.
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent co-educational boarding school for ages 13 –18 on Canada’s beautiful West Coast. Our diverse, interdisciplinary and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.