KING'S POINT, NL - Students at Valmont Academy in King's Point know a great deal about writing and acting thanks to a former student.
Actor and writer Rory Lambert - a native of Rattling Brook and former student at the school - has been working with the students through ArtsSmarts grants over the past two years.
This year's project - which included all students in the K-12 school - was titled Storytelling: The Page (for students in Grades 7-12) and the Stage (for students in Grades K-6).
The project acquainted younger students with Al Pittman's children's books "Down by Jim Long's Stage: Rhymes for Children and Young Fish," "One Wonderful Fine Day for a Sculpin Named Sam," and "On a Wing and a Wish: Salt Water Bird Rhymes."
The students' creative endeavours were featured during the school's ArtsSmarts celebration and Fine Arts Cafe fundraising initiative Nov. 23.
Teacher Roxanne Blanchard said the students' performances tied in well with the Grade 3 curriculum.
"We are learning about our province and its cultural background," she said. "A lot of kids are losing that... but Rory was so eager to bring that all back. He brought his professionalism, he told the students about his acting roles.
"With the Grades fours, fives and sixes, Rory did a full audition ... they auditioned for the parts."
Eight-year-old Bailey Curtis was excited to play a pirate fish from "Down by Jim Long's Stage."
Bailey loved saying her line from the book during the performance, and loved working on her fish.
"Rory (drew) a fish and cut it out," the excited Grade 3 student said. "Then he (drew) stuff on it and I got to colour all of it."
Kasey Budgell, 11, played a flatfish in Pittman's "One Wonderful Fine Day for a Sculpin Named Sam."
The Grade 6 student said it was fun painting the fish.
"Mine was grey and yellow," she said. "I put glitter and purple duct tape on the fins."
Kasey admits being nervous at first about being part of the theatrical performance.
However, with Lambert's help, she quickly came out of her shell.
"Rory was working with us and I learned that we were just going to have lots of fun," she said. "I learned about all the colourful fish too."
Jennifer Harris is the school's high school English/language arts teacher. Harris said the school is grateful to the Arts Council for providing ArtsSmarts funding again this year.
For the high school students, this year's project was an evolution from last year's initiative.
"The students worked collaboratively to create and bring forward a piece of writing," Harris said. "Seeing the students work off of each other's ideas, for me, was rewarding."
The students took ownership of their projects from the page to the stage - and behind the scenes. They worked on everything from stage lighting to costume design to sewing curtains for backdrops.
"Every single class achieved (their goals) above and beyond the expectations," Harris said. "I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity for our students."
Canyon Stoodley, 11, enjoyed writing and performing a script loosely based on a local legend.
"I wrote about a kid from Bully's Cove who was telling a story about a ghost that would scare you half to death," the Grade 7 student said. "It was a headless ghost who wore chains around his neck, and, if you went down the hill by yourself, he would chase you. If he caught you he would kill you."
When asked if he and his classmates used their imaginations in writing the script, an enthusiastic Canyon quipped, "Yessire."
One thing he'll remember about writing the script and performing it onstage is that "teamwork is key."
After speaking with the students, it's evident Lambert captured their interest in Newfoundland culture while giving them a taste of what it's like to be involved in the arts.
When asked if she'd like to participate in another ArtsSmarts project, Kasey was quick to answer.
"Yes. If Rory came out again. It would be cool for our class. We loved it," she said.
Lambert is a graduate of the Grenfell Campus - Memorial University fine arts program. He has worked as an actor and writer for many years. His play "Tangly" - a Christmas Pantomime based on Rapunzel - will be onstage at the LSPU Hall in St. John's from Dec. 14-17.
He said many students at Valmont Academy excel in the arts.
"I've worked with a lot of students in a lot of schools all over the island," he said. "I do a lot of adjudicating for drama festivals... a lot of ArtsSmarts programs... there is something very special about ValmontAcademy.
He said Ryan Kelley, the school's principal, is a big supporter of the arts, as are all the teachers.
"I think the evidence of that is in the kids," he said. "They understand reading to communicate. They can read and lift work off the page better than some professional actors I know."