Case Study: ‘Selfie’ – A Cultural Day for Year 9 at St Thomas More School

Cultural Providers: Mark Niel, Sophie Gresswell, Irie Vibes, Andrew Macdermott, Schools Radio Network, Teaching Talons, Future Legend Media, Trestle Theatre Co.

Teacher: Alison Wilshaw-Quinn & Leo Acquino

Kim Kardashian might have the market covered, but self obsession isn’t a new thing…remember Narcissus? If we could track the rise of ‘the selfie’, it would probably start with this fella. However, our ‘Selfie’ day at St Thomas More School in Bedford went a whole lot deeper than simply staring at our own reflections for a day…

In fact, the ‘Selfie’ Take Over day explored themes of identity on an individual, local, national and global level – making it much more interesting than pouting into our iPhones. Through a range of workshops, we wanted to get this group of 200 Year 9’s thinking about themselves – their self-confidence, body language, and self-expression; and others – by gaining an understanding of those around them.

So on the 6th June 2017, 200 young people participated in three out of a possible eight activities, all centered around the theme of ‘Selfie’. These were –

  • Mark Niel (A Kick in the Arts) – Performance Poetry Workshop
  • Sophie Gresswell – People and Place Art Workshop
  • Martin Steers (Schools Radio Network) – ‘Selfie’ Express Yourself Radio Show
  • Andrew Macdermott – Clay Self Portraits
  • Teaching Talons (Zookeepers) – Animal handling with a Global Perspective
  • Richard Mann (Future Legend Media) – ‘Selfie’ Drama Workshop
  • Helen Barnett (Trestle Theatre Co.) – Mask Workshop ‘I may be young but…’
  • Edward King (Irie Vibes) – Capoeira Workshop – Global Belonging

Teacher, Leo Acquino, felt that the workshops helped to give the young people a raised self-awareness. He said,

“The clay-making proved particularly engaging for the less emotionally articulate students.”

Leo added,

“I circulated around activities, and allowing for a natural adolescent reluctance, I saw a high level of engagement. Beforehand, I’d encouraged them to aim to get one thing from the day, and I believe the majority succeeded in doing so.”

Leo scored the ‘Selfie’ themed day 4/5 for overall quality, 4/5 for suitability for the group, and 4/5 for supporting material provided.

As for the young people taking part, there was plenty of interesting, insightful, and positive feedback received. Lots of the Year 9’s discovered something new about themselves –

“I’m good at things I didn’t know I was good at.”

“I learned that I was quite good at the radio presenting thing.”

“That I’m more open than I think to trying new things.”

They also learned lots about how we are all different and unique, and that we each present and express ourselves in different ways. For instance,

“Some activities showed us if some people were confident or not.”

“I felt particularly the sculptures made me look at myself and others more closely.”

“I learnt that just because someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean they feel that way.”

Everyone knows, being a 13 or 14-year-old is no walk in the park. Emotions run high, hormones are going crazy, and that lifelong path of understanding who you are has only just begun. We think though, that with the help of these workshops, and hands-on activities, these young people have gained a better understanding of who they are, or indeed, who they might be.