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Nurturing Creative Confidence and Self-expression Through Cultural Comics

Comics based on real life are a fantastic way to enable self-expression and self-awareness! This video is about the cultural comic workshops I have developed and run in Australia and overseas, giving students the opportunity to express themselves.

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Written by DeletedUser

Comics are a very approachable medium for communication and story telling, which helps students gain confidence and perspective on their life and other people's experiences. Often the way creative subjects (particularly creative writing and art) are taught at school, leads to competition and exclusiveness, which can be very intimidating and cause young students to give up. Comics open a 'side door' back into creative freedom and reigniting confidence, because they are casual, narrative and you don't have to be 'good' at drawing.

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DeletedUser

Dear Sarah,

Thanks for your inspiring contributions. As we plan to extend the Crowdguard Youth Ambassador Programme to address pupils in the future, I am keen to learn about user-created comics as a means of communication. Wish you all the best with your workshops and keep us updated!

Please have a look at our contributions in the female safety challenge at http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/applause/crowdguard-app-reinvent-the-geo-based-smart-phone-alarm-app-for-low-and-no-feature-phones
I would love to hear your feedback .

Photo of Rafael Carabano

Sarah
this is a fantastic post. We are working currently on prototyping a comic book for children where we are going to teach them about their body, sex, and respect for other. Do you have any insights or recommendations you might have? We would appreciate any feedback you can give us.
http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/comic-strips-about-sex-education-for-children-and-teenagers-a-fun-way-to-learn

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DeletedUser

Hi Sarah,
I really like your workshop. As you said, comic is fun and engaging kids to talk about anything, In the challenge:How might we make low-income urban areas safer and more empowering for women and girls, our team came up with an idea that using comic strips to do sex education for children in India. Because children love comic books, it's a good way for self-learning and ease embarrassment. http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/comic-strips-about-sex-education-for-children-and-teenagers-a-fun-way-to-learn
We’d love to have your suggestions and learn from your expertise. Thank you!

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DeletedUser

Hi Sarah,

This is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. The fact that this workshop can be applied across cultures really grabbed my attention. With a pencil and paper in front of them, children can express themselves no matter where they happen to be. I have spent a lot of time traveling and working overseas. When I don't know the language (and even when I do), I always carry paper and markers with me when I visit homes of families. Even though the children and I can't communicate verbally, we can express ourselves on paper. It opens up a world of connection, creativity, and friendship.

You mentioned wanting to expand the program. Where is your dream location to take your workshop next?

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DeletedUser

It's interesting how being able to communicate through drawings can help in cross cultural situations. When I ran these workshops in Mexico my Spanish was a little rusty and so the kids and I were able to improve our communication through acting with our bodies and drawing examples of what we meant. It definitely opened up a world of connection, creativity, friendship and fun!

I would like to take this workshop to so many places in the world! To Cuba, to the Netherlands, to Sweden! I really think it could work anywhere, and each time it would be completely different. All we need to make it happen is museums, translators, schools and teachers who are willing to partner with us.

The most tangible next step is taking it back to Mexico. One of the teachers we worked with in Puebla, Miguel Angel Lopez Sanchez who's in the video, was really impressed by the workshops and he wants to have the workshops taught in his school. He suggested it to fellow teachers and they are onboard. The teachers see the value for the students and also value for new ways that they can teach content and make it more engaging. To make it happen, it's just a matter of gathering funds so I can go back, improving my Spanish, getting approval from the school and matching it to the curriculum!

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DeletedUser

The positive feedback you've received from the teachers shows it's really paying off in the classroom! It sounds like Miguel will be a real champion for you.

I hope the visibility on this OpenIDEO challenge will help you get the funding you need to go back to Mexico, then on to Cuba, ... everywhere! I'll keep my ears open for opportunities for you!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Sarah for sharing. These workshops look great.

I like how you use something that is familiar and attractive to children - comics - to invite them to start thinking and articulating ideas and emotions, as well as asking questions. In that sense, it is a great "starter" per Ben's inspiration: http://www.openideo.com/open/creative-confidence/inspiration/imagination-starters-and-the-power-of-20-inspiration-/ .

I also think the workshop format where you provide kids with techniques and tricks help them be confident enough so that they can express themselves in the comics format.

I love how some of the children said that their favorite par was "writing the story together": the narrative is big aspect of it (comics in that sense are great because they are visuals but they are also about story telling) and the collaborative aspect.

More than the comics, it is about the experience of creating and sharing: I thought it was really interesting to see how the kids used their comics as a way to tell their stories and share them. The comics helped them articulating their ideas and emotions, but then it also becomes a great support to communicate them.

I agree with what one of the teachers say on how it is a great complement to all the topics he teaches: in that sense, it might also allow children to make connections across disciplines.

And of course, it's great to see the passion and happiness of the kids.

Thanks again!

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DeletedUser

Anne-Laure, I totally agree with your point about loving how the students enjoyed "writing the story together". This workshop really seems to build community between students in a way that may not be possible in a "graded" situation. Do you think that the experience of sharing and creating would have been the same if they had a "grade"?

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DeletedUser

Hi Anne-Laure and Katie, thanks for you comments. Katie, the "grade" question is an interesting one. I think grades are important but that in creative subjects they can be a quick way to shut down innovation and experimentation, and create competition (which mind you, can be positive). I think that external/extra curricular classes like what I did that are "grade-less" along with grading in school create a better balance for children to operate in two different spaces. One is more measured, one is more free. What do you think?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Interesting point regarding the grades. I think the grade would have been different because it would have signaled something else about the class. The absence of grade and the location highlighted the different nature of the workshop giving freedom to the children to experiment. Yet, I think they can be classes with grades which can still trigger similar behaviors. Grades also provide feedback.
To the competition point brought by Sarah, it reminded me something I heard this Friday about Stanford. Someone who did his MBA there and took courses in design (in what was not yet the d.school) was telling me how there was a policy of non-disclosure of the GPA between students. Therefore, students did not care about their GPAs and felt more freedom experimenting and taking classes where they might not get straight As.

I like your idea Sarah of having two different spaces.

Photo of Arjan Tupan

Interesting discussion, thanks AL for pointing it out! The idea of two different spaces is indeed interesting. But I would suggest we think about adding a third space, where there's a combination of freedom and grading - maybe by grading on a group level to inspire collaboration. What I think is important, is that while growing up, young people get to experience and experiment with things they will encounter once they've grown up, so that they can build the skills to deal with that appropriately. So giving them the experience of situations you can encounter later in life (sometime you're graded, sometimes you succeed in a team, and sometimes there's no outside official grading you). This is of course largely inspired by the article I mentioned in my inspiration here: http://www.openideo.com/open/creative-confidence/inspiration/playing-learning/

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Arjan, may I ask you to clarify the idea of the third space. I first thought you meant that there will be a continuum between grading and no grading at all, you will place your third space in between. Yet, you then list 3 situations, which seem a bit different:
sometime, you're graded
sometime, you succeed in a team
sometime there's no official grading

I think this last set of distinctions points to an interesting distinction between individual and team grading.

As for me, I don't see grades as being necessarily individualistic (in most of my courses, nearly half of the grades is team based). I also think that you can think of grades in different ways: as providing feedback, as judging the output or the process (e.g. having a grade for the final output and for the effort)... in any cases (although I know it is easier to say than to do), grades should not be what students are working toward to.

I think there are interesting themes coming out here on motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), rewards and incentives and feedback and providing different contexts.

Photo of Arjan Tupan

To be honest, Anne-Laure, it hasn't settled very clear in my mind. I just feel there's more to this than a binary graded v non-graded environment. Maybe you have a good point, and we should approach grading differently. More as feedback. Which would lead to probably more project based feedback loops, versus test-moment graded feedback. I once had a teacher who despised that he had to give us tests. He did not believe that taking a test on one day was reflecting the level of understanding or progress we had made. We could not be feeling well that one day, which would negatively impact our test results.
Anyway, what I got from that article in my inspiration, is that what we should aim for in educating and raising young children, is to have them learn the skills they need, and discover their talents, in order to lead a happy and successful life (whereby successful is a difficult term, maybe for another discussion). Using the right means to motivate them, is something we need educators like you for. You are in the front line, and can see what works, and what doesn't. But we also need to facilitate spaces (physical, virtual, allotted time) in which they can learn and discover.
I like where this conversation is going, mainly because it is giving me a space to learn. And I'm not even that young anymore :).

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Arjan for your thoughts. I don't have a clear view too. I personally as a teacher hates grading (I try to be "fair" to judge the effort but also the output and this is a hard balance), but I have to and unfortunately, there is more and more requirements for grading and testing - at all levels of education.
There's a program at NYU where it is only pass or fail and I like the idea as students seem less stress about A, A-, B+, B, etc.... and I will find it less stressful as a teacher.
Yet, you might say that later on, these students will constantly be judged and graded... and so it might be part of the experience.
This is another interesting idea:
Shall we in educational environments reproduce perfectly the "grown ups" environment and make our kids "suffer" (this is a term I heard a couple of time) as we feel we do / they will do as adults, or is it about giving a space where they can explore and experiment safely so that they can put these new skills and ideas in practice later on?
I remember having this discussion when we came back with our son who was 3 1/2 from Singapore where he was in a local kindergarden run by a wonderful loving Australian lady. He loved going there, was there from 8 to 6, Monday to Friday (he started going there he was 18 months old) and on Saturday morning, he will put his backpack asking to go! :-) He is now 13 but his voice and face change when he thinks about this place and the teachers he had there.
Moving to France was harsh (in particular as for various unplanned reasons) and he took more than a year to truly adjust. I remember many friends telling me to not worry that he did not like school, that this was normal and in some ways a learning experience in itself. I disagreed and found a better school the year after but their reactions stuck in my mind.

Regarding your point about learning: this is why I like "teaching", it's because I keep learning! ... and in my research too...

Looking forward to more conversations... and hopefully they lead us to interesting ideas in the next phase.

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DeletedUser

Sarah, thank you for posting this video. This is a very special project and the discussion it created is very interesting.
First of all, I really like the fact that comics include many things – story telling, visuals and the combination of doing it by yourself or in a group. I think this can help students process things and they can use it as a tool to express their feelings, thoughts and inner world.
Second, you got into an interesting discussion regarding grading and talked about 2 spaces (school and non-school). But do you think some of it can happen in school as well? What effect will it have? Meaning having some classes with no grades in which students will do things they want and can experiment, rather than dividing it to two different spaces.

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DeletedUser

Thanks for all the great comments!

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DeletedUser

Ayala, I have done these workshops in schools before and they were 'additional' classes rather than graded classes. They did, however, build on their current curriculum. The teachers feedback was that they enhanced learning and were very effective. I don't know how well they would work if grading was introduced. I do see that workshops like these could fit well into school as a complementary 'development' subject. I hope that answers your questions?

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DeletedUser

Sarah, Arjan, Ayala, and Anne-Laure - way to keep the conversation going! I love seeing where this has evolved.

What I gather from this conversation, in short, is there A LOT of shades of gray here. Maybe what we need to establish is what exactly is it about a grade that is negative (particularly as it applies to creativity). I'm reflecting on my own "graded" experiences (whether in art workshops, writing a policy brief for a government class, or designing a presentation, etc) when I exercised creativity. As a young student, when the teacher gave me a high mark, I felt my creativity had a pay off and I often continued evolving. However, when my teacher gave me a low grade, I usually because discouraged and switched off.

Shouldn't it have been just the opposite when I received a low-grade? Isn't that an opportunity to learn more, evolve more, and push yourself further?

I'd like to say I've moved past that, but in a grade-driven education system, it's hard not to focus on the things that your teacher things you do well and stay away from the things that you do poorly. What do you guys think? Similar experiences, or is it possible this is different depending on where you're from?

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DeletedUser

I personally have lots of experience with comics, and I do think it's a great way to cultivate creativity. I am still watching a Japanese anima , and I am so amazed by the author's imagination. It's fun and it's engaging. Kids by nature love expression and storytelling, and their world can be very exclusive. Therefore, we can at least know about their world a bit by looking at their drawing/creativity work.

Photo of Anne Kjaer Riechert

Wonderful work Sarah. And what a great video. I would love to do something similar for my own project. I run a project called Kids Have a Dream, which also the medium of art to empower children and give them a global voice. I just uploaded my project here: http://www.openideo.com/open/creative-confidence/inspiration/kids-have-a-dream/ - In essence I work with local school teachers or social workers and teach them how to run local workshops where the students draw their dreams for the future. Afterwards they send the drawings back to me, and I make them into exhibitions to raise awareness about global issues and raise global understanding. Right now I am in the process of raising money to fund a large exhibition on the Berlin Wall for the 25th anniversary next year. The idea is to illuminate 100m of the remaining Wall with dreams from kids in 100 countries.

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DeletedUser

Wow Anne that is fantastic!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Glad to see the 2 of your "meeting" as I think there are a lot of complementary things in your two projects! :-)

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DeletedUser

Yes, it's very exciting!

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DeletedUser

Hi Sarah,
One aspect of your work that I think is an incredibly valuable (in addition to the many aspects disccused in the other comments) in cultivating creative confidence is the opporutnity to collaborate within a personal project. I'm curious: Can you describe how collaboration makes it way into the workshop? Is it something you incorporate consciously into the structure?

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DeletedUser

Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. I'm not sure what you mean by being able to collaborate within a personal project? I'd be very interested to hear more! On collaboration in general, the way we have collaborated in the workshop previously, is firstly through a series of body-theatre characterisation exercises, followed by collaborative storytelling exercises. We then do group speed drawing games to loosen the kids up, followed by drawing scenarios that the kids choose and the interpretations are shared amongst the group. The final comic/s that each child makes is more personal and completely up to them - usually a personal story from their life that enhances self awareness and confidence in their creative voice. This last part is more self-directed and usually they sit quietly writing/drawing and then we share the stories once they are done. In my experience this quiet, solitary drawing time is usually essential so that they can focus and feel confident. Some kids feel very shy to share their real thoughts and stories if their peers (other students/teachers/parents) are watching them, usually because they get caught up in trying to impress/do the 'right' thing. etc.

Photo of yasmeen kashef

I truly love the process of nurturing creativity and asking young people to draw, especially the ones who feel that they are no good at drawing. This reminds me of a festival that I went to that had a comics project somewhat similar to what you have here. These guys set up a table, had a huge scrolling paper roll and asked anyone passing by (during a festival with high family traffic) to draw a panel. Check it out here: http://durhamcomicsproject.org/2013/08/eno-river-fest-comic/

What I love about this project is that it's a great way to first engage and introduce creativity without requiring too much "work". What better way to introduce creativity than to have their parents join them in drawing a comic at a festival?

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DeletedUser

Thank you Yasmeen! I really enjoyed the comics from that festival. What a fabulous idea!

Photo of Hao Dinh

Sarah, very inspiring way to teach the arts, share cultural experiences and build confidence! Thanks for sharing and welcome to OpenIDEO.

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DeletedUser

Hi Hao, thank you for your comment and I'm so happy you enjoyed it! I really like your Grow By Design work too. I'd love to some how get involved even though I am in Australia!

Photo of Meena Kadri

This is awesome, Sarah! We're so excited that you've joined this challenge as you've clearly got so many learnings to share on this important topic. Hoping to see you on more conversations across the challenge in upcoming weeks...

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DeletedUser

Thanks Meena, I'm so happy this challenge was created! :D

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And here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so folks can dig who they're collaborating with. Think skills, experience, passions & wit!

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DeletedUser

Thanks for the tip. DONE!

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DeletedUser

Great Job Sarah! I hope that one day you will do a workshop in Canada!

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DeletedUser

I would love to come to Canada to do a bunch of workshops!

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Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Inspiration!

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DeletedUser

Thank you I'm so excited that it is!