The Postcards Approach: Young Children Sharing Drawings and Stories about Their Environments

By Reesa Sorin.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 11, 2014 $US5.00

The purpose of this study was to stimulate and encourage children in kindergarten/pre-preparatory (age 4–5) classrooms in Australia (Cairns) and Canada (Toronto) to construct and share their environmental understandings, concerns, and perceptions with their peers across the globe through pictures and stories. Employing a social-constructivist perspective and utilising the arts-based methods of drawing and storytelling, children in Cairns constructed postcards for their peers in Toronto and their Toronto peers reciprocated. Akin to action research cycles, children created visual and verbal texts in the form of large postcards and accompanying narratives that depicted their understandings, concerns, and perceptions in relation to their local, natural environments and in response to environments described by children in the other country. Researchers and teachers trialled various arts-based pedagogies during this process and collected data from semi-structured interviews pre- and post-project implementation with the children and their teachers, artifacts produced by the children, and observations made during time in class. Findings revealed that using an authentic task (drawing postcards and storytelling for an authentic audience) encouraged children to: (1) share their understandings in a confident, engaged and deep manner with their peers; and (2) generate rich, crosscultural representations, understandings, concerns and perceptions of their local, natural environments from two different locations. The study concluded that arts-based methods for teaching and data collection were not only engaging, but also provided rich qualitative understandings of children's perceptions of their and others' natural environments.

Keywords: Arts-based Methods, Drawing and Storytelling, Early Childhood, Environmental, Understanding, Sustainability

The International Journal of Arts Education, Volume 8, Issue 1, April 2014, pp.37-54. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 11, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.871MB)).

Reesa Sorin

Associate Professor, School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Dr. Reesa Sorin is coordinator of early childhood education and arts education at James Cook University, Cairns. She holds a PhD in education from the University of Wollongong. Her research interests include: conceptualisations of childhood, emotional literacy, teaching and learning through the arts, and arts-based research methods. She is also a painter and photographer. Dr. Sorin has been researching the nexus between art and science with the belief that children learn in multimodal ways and that to retain knowledge, they must be given the opportunities to learn and to demonstrate learning in ways that suit them. Environmental sustainability is an important issue for children to understand, beginning with their earliest educational experiences. The arts are appropriate tools for collecting information about their understandings and for teaching the concept of environmental sustainability.