This summer, I handed out digital cameras to bunch of 11 year olds (and some younger ones) and asked them to take pictures of what they’ve learned about food. As they scattered with excitement before I could even begin with the instructions, I realized this Photovoice project would have to be done a bit differently…
Over the last few months, I’ve been developing and delivering a food education program for kids, called Plants to Plates (learn more here and here). When it came to evaluating the program I wanted to try to use a creative tool to engage the kids in sharing what they have learned. Photovoice was something new, we’d never used it with kids before, but I was eager to give it a shot!
Photovoice is a participatory technique to engage and give a platform to groups whose voices often go unheard. The goal of Photovoice is to support the self-empowerment of participants by providing them with the opportunity to express their experiences and “speak” through photographs about issues that concern them, connect with others in their community, and/or advocate for change. Photovoice can also be used as a creative and participatory evaluation tool, to get feedback on a group on a certain question or idea. A few years ago, the Our Food team did a beautiful Photovoice projet with community gardeners and blogged about it here and here.
We gave each kid a digital camera for two weeks, and asked them to take pictures that represent what they had learned since being in the Plants to Plates program (Actually, we realized, that to have any chance at all at keeping their attention we’d have to explain the project before handing around the cameras).
Together, we brainstormed and filled a big piece of paper with things they’d learned or things that had changed for them over the last couple of months in the program. Things like:
- More interested in cooking
- More confident in the kitchen and using a sharp knife
- More aware of what’s healthy and what food looks like when it’s growing
- More conscious of composting
- Checking labels that show where food comes from
When, after the first week of taking pictures, a few kids only had pictures of their summer vacation, I realized I needed to do a better job at explaining how photographs could represent ideas.
So we took out our list “things we’d learned”, and kids took turns either explaining in words or drawing pictures to illustrate the learnings. For example, one kid explained that they could illustrate “being more aware of what is healthy food” by taking a picture of themselves checking out the ingredients label on their favourite drink. Another drew a picture of the proper way to hold a knife. I think they’re getting it! I thought, relieved.
After 2 weeks of taking pictures, we reviewed the pictures together. Each kid chose their favourite pictures and explained to me what they represented. These pictures would be presented at the program finale, Family Feast. This review stage is an important part of the Photovoice process as it encourages a moment of self-reflection and empowers the children, letting them express themselves in a more meaningful way than a simple “end of program” survey.
On the final day of the program , we unveiled the final products. As you can see, they turned out pretty nicely! I hope this story has sparked your interest. If you’d like to learn more about the Plants to Plates program or this Photovoice project, shoot me an email Georgia@ecologyaction.ca