Timeline of Flight
Multimedia Sculptural Installation
J.L.Ilsley High School with Artist Miro Davis

Domestic/International Check-in Hall

When J.L.Ilsley High school was approached in the fall of 2008 with an invitation to contribute to the FlightDreams exhibit at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS), word spread like wildfire through the school community and staff and students were excited to face the challenge. Not unlike a project involving the development of an actual flight object, this project required a great degree of collaboration between the different departments and student body and the artist before it could be launched and before it reached its momentum and unfolded its creative energy. And even though J.L.Ilsley is well know for its outstanding visual arts program, for many students this was their first experience of working with an artist in the classroom and the encounter was at times bordering on the magical and transformational. Working with Miro Davis was a wonderful experience for both teachers and staff and everybody contributed, by lending support, by providing feedback, by becoming involved in the creative art making, even by cutting sheets of plywood and Plexiglas based on complex plans and templates.

The intent of the project was to integrate the creative process of art making into the curriculum framework of science and to have each science class contribute to the large scale sculptural installation in its own unique way. In the words of the science department head: “There were many of us who travelled on this journey. Initially we were taking different paths but, eventually, we arrived at a point on the road where science met art, where equations intersected imagination and theorems encountered creativity. What an exciting adventure!”

Once the conceptual framework had been developed by the artist-in-residence, the “Feather Project” – as it quickly came to be known – took on a life of its own: An 18 foot long clear acrylic feather became the anchor for countless student made objects which depict the evolution of flight in a developmental sequence, starting on one end with nature’s ingenious designs for seed distributions and the ancient world of insects, birds and other flying animals. The next section contains an interpretation of flight dreams involving symbolic images while the last panel of the timeline depicts objects created by humans, ranging from their initial crude attempt to translate their dreams of flight into reality to futuristic flying objects, which point the way to future space exploration.

Some classes focused on the development of topographic maps using the technique of metal repoussée while studying bathymetric maps from offshore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland as templates for the underwater topographical features of the land. These maps were used as the background which anchors the feather, just like the maps of land and sea help pilots navigate while flying. Other students focused on the physical principles of flight and designed not only futuristic flight objects, but described the underlying theoretical principels as well; one Grade 11 student wrote about her futuristic flying object that “air would be needed to be expelled with a force of 3015N from the bottom thrusters in order to rise the ‘Eco-Cruser’ off the ground at an acceleration of 0.25m/second squared”. The Flight Dreams projects became linked to the grade 11 Physics Curriculum framework , which included units on kinematics, representing vectors, vector analysis, algebraic problem solving; dynamics, such as dynamics introduction, Newton’s law; momentum and energy dealing with conservation of momentum, work, power and efficiency, transformation, total energy and many other principles. The physics teacher not only guided the independent study of advanced physics students throughout this project, but also contributed writings by Robert Frost, dealing with the Gold Foil Experiment and other aspects of nuclear physics, which added a philosophical and poetic aspect to the project.

The chemistry classes experimented with different types of biding agents for making Papier Mâché parachutes, while other students incorporated their insights from their ecology unit on insects by creating mobiles with butterflies, moths and other flying creatures. Some students revisited their childhood memories and folded paper airplanes while the teachers tied the activity to the principle of motion, others created objects ranging from flying pigs to flying ants.