Welch Hall was alive with colour earlier this month when a group of 16 elementary school students shared their artwork with parents and the Brock community.
Part of ongoing research led by Diane Collier, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Studies, the “Selfie Project” exhibition on Thursday, May 18 showcased final projects created by children in Grades 4 to 8 who used art and photography to explore their identities and social issues.
“The project was a powerful experience for students to reflect on and share their identities with others,” says Simranjeet Kaur, a PhD in Educational Studies student and research assistant for the project. “Through our sessions, the students learned about photography and how to critically evaluate images.”
Kaur, Collier and co-researcher Melissa McKinney-Lepp (BA ’01, BE’d 02, MEd ’22) worked with students at the Niagara Falls elementary school where McKinney-Lepp works as a teacher. The team met with children over several sessions to take and modify photos. During the final session, the students also received help from a professional photographer and created their final works using photos, drawings and text.
The children were encouraged to take ownership over their work, deciding how to approach each element of their final exhibition pieces.
“Thinking in advance about exhibiting seemed to compel them to reflect on their material and artistic choices,” said Collier.
She first began working on research involving photography after learning about photographer Wendy Ewald’s Literacy through Photography approach, a way of teaching that encourages children to use photography as a medium of exploration and self-expression.
Wanting to pursue this area of potential research further, Collier, McKinney-Lepp and Kaur began to collaborate on the Selfie Project research.
Collier, Kaur and McKinney-Lepp see images as powerful but taken for granted by people because of their rapid proliferation in the age of smartphones and social media. The group was interested in working with images at a time when children begin to create and share photographs in their daily lives.
“We want to demonstrate and describe transformative pedagogies at the same time that we are researching how children might shift their relationships to images, how they might develop a more thoughtful and critical stance and how images can be used to connect across difference in both local and global settings,” says Collier.
Other students and educators are already taking notice of the work done by the research team. Kaur is also expanding on inspiration from the Selfie Project research in her doctoral work with children in India.
The Selfie Project part of a program of research, “Visualizing Citizenship: The Effects of Images on Children’s Everyday Lives,” funded by a Brock Explore Grant. The Selfie Project is also funded through a Social Research Justice Institute Research Seed Grant and Faculty of Education grants.