by Dr Pippa Burns, Chief Investigator, Dementia knowledge, Art, Research and Education (DARE)
Children today, more than ever before, are likely to know family and/or community members living with a form of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term for over 100 disorders that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer ’s disease. Dementia affects the way people think and behave and can interfere with their normal life.
As the population ages more people will be living with a dementia. While dementia is not a normal sign of ageing the likelihood of dementia occurring increases with age. By 2050, approximately 900,000 Australians are expected to be living with dementia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2012). This means that the children of the future are even more likely to know people living with a dementia.
While the rates of dementia are increasing, 75% of people living with dementia and their carers report experiencing stigma and social isolation (Batsch & Mittelman, 2012). One way to address this problem is through education of the next generation; a gap Project DARE can address.
The Project DARE team has developed a novel short education intervention to raise awareness and understanding of dementia by primary school children. The intervention has been developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from UOW in partnership with teachers at Thirroul Public School and artists from Big Fat Smile. The project is currently being implemented in Stage 2 at Thirroul Public School (n>100).
Project DARE has been developed to run across three lessons. The first lesson is an art class (linked to the stage 2 Creative Arts curriculum) which has been specifically developed to allow children to express their understanding of memory. Younger children are often more able to express concepts, particularly emotional concepts visually, through art-making. The project allows children to discover and use their visual language to describe their understandings. In lesson two, the children work through a lesson plan that has been specifically developed, using existing resources, to meet Stage 2 curriculum requirement for Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE). The artwork created by the children will then be revisited in lesson three to show if and how their understanding of dementia has changed. The children will also be introduced to, and be inspired by the work of a number of contemporary artists and the art sessions will be delivered by practising, degree qualified artists.
The project will conclude with an exhibition of the artwork produced by the children, from 22nd August to 5th September 2017, at The Gallery at Big Fat Smile, Corrimal and will then travel to other community spaces in the region.
To date, Project DARE has gained considerable interest both here and overseas. We expect to run the program later this year at a school in Aberdeen, Scotland in partnership with colleagues from the University of Aberdeen. In the future, we hope to continue to develop in other schools across New South Wales, Australia.
Project DARE received seed funding from UOW’s Global Challenges Program in 2016.
For more information about this research project visit Dementia knowledge, Art, Research and Education (DARE).
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