Health and Medicine

Unique art education program teaches children about dementia

The results of a unique project that uses art to illustrate children’s understanding of dementia is currently on display in Corrimal.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) Global Challenges Program, in consultation with artists from Big Fat Smile and teachers at Thirroul Public School, have developed the project that aims to educate the next generation about dementia.

Project DARE (Dementia knowledge, Art, Research and Education) was developed to raise awareness and understanding of dementia by primary school aged children and was recently run at Thirroul Public School, with the results of the program on show at the The Gallery at Big Fat Smile from Saturday 26 August to Saturday 9 September 2017.

The exhibition launched in the lead up to Dementia Awareness Month in September 2017.

Project DARE Chief Investigator Pippa Burns said the unique method of delivery allowed children to express their knowledge and perception of dementia in a way that suits them.

“Younger children are often more able to express visually concepts that they may not have the words to convey verbally,” she said.

“The project allows children to discover and use their visual language to describe their understanding of dementia.

“Through analysis of the artwork, we hope to show how the children’s understanding of dementia changes before and after the educational intervention. It has been extremely rewarding seeing people from different disciplines come together to produce this program, and the immediate impact on the children has been amazing. Potentially, this program will help to reduce the stigma and social isolation that people with dementia often experience. ”

Chief Creative Officer at Big Fat Smile Jennine Primmer praised the research team for the unique program.

“The Big Fat Smile artists loved being part of a project that sees the art making process as the measure for learning,” she said.

“It is just so affirming, in terms of what we advocate for and believe in.”

Researchers from Project DARE designed and evaluated three lessons for Stage 2 children (Years 3 and 4). The first lesson was an art class themed around memory, the second lesson aimed to increase understanding of dementia and in the third and final art lesson, the children were able to create a second artwork, based on their original work, including what they had learnt about dementia.

The project will conclude with an exhibition of the artwork produced by the children. The exhibition will run from Saturday 26 August to Saturday 9 September 2017 at The Gallery at Big Fat Smile, Corrimal, before travelling to the Early Start Discovery Space during November 2017.

Project DARE received seed funding from UOW’s strategic research initiative, the Global Challenges Program in 2016.

Source: UOW

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