We are using creative art-based methods with children across primary and early years settings in Bristol. Arts processes can allow participants to create something specific to them, and because of its oblique nature it can act as a space where people express their identity, ideas and experiences.
By visiting the schools several times, we are able to support the young people to make a ‘creative diary’ using a range of different activities.
Deep mapping is a participatory process that tries to understand a place or situation through different people’s relationships with it. In our opening sessions, each child drew a map on a plain postcard in response to the question ‘What does your world look like at the moment?’
We then attached the postcard maps to larger sheets of paper and the children worked in small groups extending their map beyond its original boundaries. Working in small groups allowed us to gain more nuanced understanding of the children’s experiences and perspectives during the pandemic.
We followed the mapping with photo elicitation, a process that explores how participants respond to different photographic images, and what social and personal meanings and values they ascribe to them. We produced one set of photos based on images from our research themes, and a second set based on images that had cropped up frequently in the children’s maps. The children were asked for their thoughts and feelings about the photos, and then drew ‘photos’ of images they felt were significant, but were not in the sets.
Inspired by wishing tree traditions from around the world, our current phase of engagement is called Trees of hope and ambition. We have developed our own tree metaphor to help the children to think about what they want and need in their lives, and how this might best be supported.
Each child is given a tree template to work with. They draw their hopes and ambitions on circles of card, which they place in the branches of their trees.
We then work with the children in small groups to consider what they need to realise their hopes and ambitions, and where this support will come from.
These methods will enable us to capture children’s voices in an indirect and sensitive way, given the potentially traumatic nature of their experiences.