Overview and Challenge
While driving to and from a meeting in Shelbyville, Missouri, the idea was hatched for the HCRC and MU Extension Human Environmental Sciences to work with Healthy Lifestyle Initiative communities throughout Missouri to do a photovoice campaign called Photovoice Missouri. We wanted to see if by working with middle and high school teachers, especially in rural areas and their students, we could give teens a platform to their unique perspective to the individuals in their communities and advocate for change.
We thought by giving them cameras and telling them to take photographs and write about the health of their communities, we could provide the tools they would need to accomplish that goal.
Photovoice is a participatory tool that has been successfully used with groups who may be underrepresented or marginalized. By using photography and writing narrative captions, groups can raise awareness about their perspectives and the issues that concern them. As a tool, photovoice has been used to create grassroots change. [Bonus points for viewers who can find the photovoice project in the movie, A Place a the Table.]
Through a review of the literature, we learned that incorporating photovoice into existing middle and high school curricula was a unique approach. By looking at how past traditional photovoice campaigns had been run, we took elements that fit – such as training, some evaluation techinques, and advocacy – and combined them with ideas about how to incorporate those into existing classes.
What we’ve learned so far is that by going through classrooms, there is less attrition. It also creates a non-traditional learning environment that reaches some teens that normally don’t participate actively in the traditional classroom setting. This is important because, along with the possibilities of positive health change with the students and communities, there is the added benefit of student development in the form of leadership, advocacy, photographic and digital imaging skills, and empowerment to create change.
Strategy and Creative Direction
We chose to run the project primarily through social media platforms – Facebook for the teachers and Flickr for the student photos and captions. These venues offer a chance for interaction. By posting photos on Flickr, students from one community can view and comment on what’s being done by another community and see that although there may be hundreds of miles separating them, many of the problems from one place to another are very similar (or different as the case may be).
This also allowed the students a place to go and see that their work was really going to be seen. It gave them an outlet for their voice that they may not have been able to get without Photovoice Missouri.
Through a thorough evaluation plan, including pre- and post-surveys of teachers and students, key informant interviews, and comparisons of survey responses and photos/captions, we were able to measure student thought and behavior change in each community. The project is ongoing so results will be forthcoming. However, we have seen that many students who normally do not participate in class are responding to Photovoice Missouri and they are excited about advocating for a healthier community.