Peter Lenton: Singing About Science
by Elamin Abdelmahmoud
In a short period of time, Peter Lenton, Artsci ’86, Ed’90, has seen great success. In the last year alone, his album “Proud Like A Mountain” won the Juno Award for Best Children’s Album, the title track placed third in the 2010 Billboard Magazine World Song Contest, and Peter was nominated for Children’s Artist of the Year at the Canadian Indies Awards, the Canadian Folk Music Awards, and the Western Canadian Music Awards. Peter, who performs under the name Peter Puffin, was also nominated for the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Distinguished Artist award. For his creative approach to education, Peter was given the Alberta Teacher’s Association Distinguished Fellow Award and the prestigious Alberta Emerald Foundation Award.
Peter’s journey began shortly after graduating from the B.Ed. program. “I accepted a position as an environmental and outdoor education program teacher at the Rocky Mountain Outdoor School near Banff, Alberta,” he says. “Living in a rustic cabin in the shadow of the Rockies, with the forests and the mountains as my first classrooms, it was so fantastic and fulfilling to re-ignite the natural caring that kids have for nature and environmental science.”
Part of Peter’s teaching program at the school was facilitating a daily 90-minute sing-along celebration for the students. “I was involved in helping 500 students and teachers sing about curriculum-related science and social studies topics. Doing so for four nights a week for six months was a stellar training ground for me.”
He recalls his time on campus: “We played music all the time at Queen’s – we had late-night jam sessions in the stairwells of the residences and in the halls of West Campus.” In addition, Peter worked as a DJ/Producer at CFRC, playing music live on air and interviewing some of his musical heroes. “I remember going to see the Tragically Hip at the Toucan on Princess Street before they had any original material!” he recalls. “I loved the vibrant music scene around Kingston in the 1980s.”
Before studying education, Peter completed a biology degree at Queen’s. “My first degree in biology and the accompanying field research experience gave me the overview content and the science I teach,” he says. “People tell me that I am a good example of someone who has combined a number of disciplines – biology, education, music, storytelling, community-building and global citizenship – and veered off onto a very unconventional career path.”
Peter has seen tremendous success, and things are not looking like they will slow down. While he continues to tour in support of the album – he’s booked nationally and internationally over the next year – Peter will also begin work on his next album. On tour, he performs at festivals, conducts workshops at teaching conventions, and completes week-long stints as the artist-in-residence at several schools. In the midst of a busy schedule, he is also working on developing new teaching resources to go along with his songs. He also writes journal and magazine articles on the process of preparing young people for local leadership and global citizenship. To keep up with his pace, visit Peter’s website at www.puffin.ca.