April 6, 2021
In a recent media literacy unit, the Grade 4 class at Madoc Township Public School studied advertising and media strategies, with a focus on the images of people used in promotions. As students thought critically about the content, they began to draw connections between those depictions and themselves. The concept for the #perfectlyoriginal project began when a 9-year-old student asked, “Why don’t we use everyday people or regular people in the media?”
After further thought, she continued, “They are all regular people and editing makes them not regular.”
These ideas launched a deeper examination of how the media’s idealized portrayal of people negatively impacts the self-esteem of viewers who feel they are not as perfect as the images they see. What began as an analysis of how people are portrayed in the media, evolved into something much bigger than a simple lesson; students’ desire to share the message of loving yourself for who you are.
The class spent some time examining The Dove Real Beauty Pledge, a campaign by Dove, the personal care products company. Dove’s website states, “At Dove, we believe no young person should be held back from reaching their full potential. However, low body confidence and anxieties over appearance stop young people from being their best selves, affecting their health, friendships and even performance at school.”
This statement prompted another student to ask, “Aren’t we perfect just the way we are?”
The class agreed that the student was 100 percent correct. We are all perfect just the way we are. Keeping this in mind, they enthusiastically began a fun, unique project to promote positive self-esteem, individualism and the belief that there is nothing wrong with being yourself.
Teacher Angela Burr asked local professional photographer Shannon Cassidy, from Brome & Timothy Photography, to visit the classroom and photograph each student #editfree. Students took time to consider the features they found beautiful about themselves. With these thoughts as guidance, they designed their own photo shoot using props and handwritten cards with #hashtags they felt best represented them. Students felt vulnerable but also strong and empowered, as they saw themselves through a different lens being “#perfectlyoriginal”.
“Our project was a great learning experience, reinforcing that we can always accept ourselves as being perfect just the way we are,” said Burr. “We hope that others will enjoy the beauty of our #editfree photos and share their own pictures to build on the message that each of us is #perfectlyoriginal,” she added.
When asked what they took away from the project, students shared the following statements about their learning and new outlook:
“I am perfect just the way I am, and I feel good about who I am without being edited.”
“I learned about my true natural self.”
“Everyone is beautiful just the way they are.”
“I don’t need to change one thing about me.”
“Don’t judge yourself; you just need love yourself.”
“I am proud of what I see.”
“I learned I should love myself just the way I am.”
“Don’t be scared to be different; it’s good to be different.”
“I am beautiful just the way I am, and I do love myself. It’s true, I love my inside and out.”
Madoc Township Public School serves approximately 140 students from JK-Grade 8. It is situated in the picturesque, rural community of Madoc Township, and is surrounded by fields, farms and wetlands. It has a large playground, with a running track, soccer fields, ball diamonds and play structures. The school motto, “Friendship and Learning” is apparent every day in an environment where the focus is on high expectations for student learning and the HPEDSB Growing with Character attributes of caring, cooperation, honesty, humour, integrity, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness.