Exploring Place Through the Visual Arts: From the Real to the Ideal

By Reesa Sorin and Tamara Brooks.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Theory and History

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

It is said that children today are becoming increasingly disconnected from their environment. However, determining the extent of this disconnect by exploring young children’s environmental perceptions, experiences and conceptualisations can be challenging, with children not always having the words to describe what they see, think or feel. To address this issue, methodologies have been developed that enable children to communicate through various art forms. Problems associated with arts-based research methods include that literate cultures place little value on visual representations, with the assumption being that language is the most appropriate representational medium to express what one thinks, feels or senses. Even now, as the amount of published visual research increases, there remain remarkably few guides on how to do visual research methods and more importantly, how to interpret the visual. This paper describes a series of studies in which young children depicted “places”, through drawing, painting and collage, supplemented by stories and interviews. Their creations of “place” varied from the real (what they actually saw in their environment), to holiday spots, and hypothetical or imagined places. While children generally represented their places positively, they demonstrated a greater affinity for human made rather than natural objects within their environment.

Keywords: Arts in Education, Environmental Understanding through the Arts

The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.43-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.783MB).

Reesa Sorin

Senior Lecturer, School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Dr. Reesa Sorin is a senior lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Arts Education at James Cook University, Cairns. Her research interests include: teaching and learning through the arts, environmental sustainability in early childhood, conceptualisations of childhood, and emotional literacy. She is also a visual artist. She is currently working with researchers in Canada, Scotland and Singapore on developing young children's environmental awareness through the arts.

Tamara Brooks

Research Assistant, School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Tamara Brooks is a graduate research assistant in Early Childhood Education at James Cook University, Cairns. Completing her Honours thesis in 2010, Tamara’s interests concern early childhood environmental education and sustainability initiatives, as well as arts-based research methodologies.