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Cayman Islands Heritage Arts programme wraps up another successful year

East End students at The Ritz-CarltonStudents across the Cayman Islands were successfully able to embrace Caymanian arts and heritage thanks to another informative year of specialised, hands-on teaching courtesy of the Heritage Arts programme, now brought to a close with the end of the school year. Over 400 certificates were handed out to students who completed the programme this year, with 15 gaining trophies for their particularly outstanding endeavours. A total of 447 students who attend government schools were participants in the Heritage Arts programme each month. In addition, community service events and the participation by students from private schools means over 1,700 young people had the benefit of this enriching education over the past school year.

First established into the year six curriculum in the 2010-2011 school year, the Heritage Arts programme makes that all-important connection between Cayman’s rich and varied traditions and today’s youth, forging links that will go on to ensuring that what makes Cayman so unique as a nation is never forgotten.

A vital component of the Heritage Arts programme is the provision of facilitators and instructors, who attend each primary school across Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, as well as John Gray High School, the Sunrise Adult Training Centre and The Lighthouse School.

Chris Christian, from Cayman Traditional Arts, is the instigator and director of the programme. He affirms that students enjoy expertise from well qualified instructors:

“The experience of our instructors is deep-rooted,” he confirms. “Whether they are explaining how to construct a calavan, instructing on the art of archery, or helping students prepare fritters and other local delicacies, our instructors are well versed in their own subject matter and are able to engage the students in a lively and entertaining way that properly interests them. In this way we believe the students get the very most out of their experience on the Heritage Arts programme.”

Ms Audrey Leahong is a year six teacher at East End Primary School. She says that her students always gain a tremendous amount out of participating in the Heritage Arts programme.

“My students have participated in the Heritage Arts programme for four years now and it is a beautiful thing,” she confirms. “It’s an extremely good programme because it looks to the history of traditional arts, going into traditions such as thatching, games, making kites, making fritters with guava jam and so on. They also participate in creating a canvas at the end of the year which is showcased at The Ritz-Carlton.”

The opening night of the exhibition was attended by over 300 people — a significant number which greatly benefitted the children, Ms Leahong says.

“The programme and the art exhibition helps to build the students’ confidence, helps with team building, as well as promoting a flair for the arts. But more than that, what I really love is the powerful literacy aspect associated with the programme. We work on recounting what has been taught in the lesson, informative and persuasive writing and also procedural writing. For example, we have the children writing down the steps to make a cake. The workbook that each student has is full of photographs and illustrations and that in turn also helps students who work in a visual way.”

Ms Leahong goes on to say that her district has a very strong seafaring past, so the wealth of knowledge that is being passed on to her students by the instructors who teach this aspect of the programme is particularly welcomed by her students.

“The programme is also linked to Heritage Day and International Day, which really makes it a total programme,” she states.

The Heritage Arts programme is funded by three highly supportive government ministries, each of which recognise the importance of such a programme imparting such important information to Cayman’s youth and also to the wider community, which might otherwise be lost forever. Mr Christian thanks the Ministry of District Admin, Tourism and Transport, the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Culture for their continued support in this venture.


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