When the award-winning photographer Angélica Dass decided to write her first children’s book, she knew it needed to be more than a book. She needed to teach an important lesson. And above all, it had to be playful.
For years, Das has educated the world through the acclaimed Humanæ project, a collection of portraits designed to showcase the beauty of human diversity. This series seeks to record each person’s true color, rather than relying on labels such as “black”, “white”, “red”, and “yellow”. The background for each portrait is then created by matching the tones of the subject to the Pantone color scheme.
“I started thinking about this piece when I was six,” Das said. “It was at that very moment that I questioned the pink crayon I was using, and I was thinking of black and white as the color.”
Das’s work has traveled around the world, appearing everywhere from museums to National Geographic pages. And now she’s a new book for photographers, and even the smallest humans can learn through her eyes, Colors we share.. Created for young readers over the age of six, this story casts doubt on the concept of race and the limited language used to describe the skin.
This book acts as a kind of time capsule for Das’s young self.
“I don’t think I can make a time machine to go back to my childhood and give this book to myself,” Das said. “But I think we can make a book that stimulates conversation. For young people.”
For Das, inspiring the conversation meant that the book had to be more than words and pictures on the page.She knew it Colors we share You need to include a powerful educational component that is ready to work with an educator in the classroom.
“Teachers can find it difficult to tackle these complex issues,” says Dass. “I want to prepare the material so that they can easily explain such complex issues and at the same time be playful for the children.”
To complete her vision, Das turned to Professor AnnMarie Thomas, an old friend of the University of St. Thomas. Friends know one or two things about playful learning.
Thomas is the founder and director of the Playful Learning Lab (PLL). Interdisciplinary research groups specialize in creating play-focused, hands-on experiences for students. They have created videos and projects for a variety of clients, from Grammy award-winning rock band OK Go to Metro Deaf School.
Thomas met Das in 2016 under the guise of a photo subject for the Humanæ project. After praising each other’s work from a distance, they finally made an excuse to work together.
“I was very impressed with Angelica’s work,” said Thomas. “And now we suddenly have a great opportunity to do something together.”
It’s time to use the Playful Learning Lab to bring together a crew of students and faculty professionals from different disciplines.
“Projects like this include a great deal of collaboration and design skills,” says Thomas. “One of my favorite things about overseeing the Playful Learning Lab is to see students collaborate with and make friends with students from different departments and backgrounds.”
Working closely with Dass and her publishing team at Aperture, the students went to work together last year with multiple lessons together. Colors we share.. The College of Education’s Department of Education and its advisors were in charge of curriculum development, and the College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Emerging Media worked on the production of video content.
Maggie Stout ’22, a major strategic communicator, oversaw the filming of the project. Adopted and a member of the BIPOC community, Stout was involved in the project’s message and purpose.
“I always defined myself in color, but I hope Angelica’s curriculum teaches young children that it’s not the race that defines you,” Stout said. I did. “It’s all the other aspects like your culture, your hobbies, your family-people have much more than their skin color.”
As Stout graduated from St. Thomas and started working for the Twin Cities media agency, she wants to continue using her skills for the public good.
“Every project I did, big or small, was something I felt would make a real difference to the world,” Stout said. “I want to influence. I was able to influence people with the lab and Angelica videos.”
For Professor Thomas, preparing students for a successful career in the real world is one of the greatest achievements of this level of collaboration.
“Working on projects that are seen and hopefully used by educators around the world gives our team the skills and experience they can bring to their future work,” said Thomas. I am.
Photographer and writer Das is proud of the curriculum created at the Playful Learning Lab and is excited to make it available to educators.
“We can really provide them with the tools to make this change we are looking for and have this conversation we are generating,” Das said. “This is just one of the tools that can bring about this positive change.”
At the end of each conversation, Das wants to learn to celebrate how unique and colorful human beings we are.
“This is just one step. It’s a very important step, but we’ll keep moving forward every day until we feel we’ll never be dehumanized by who I am,” Das said.
Colors we share Angelica Das is now available online. The materials created by the Playful Learning Lab at St. Thomas University will be released on Aperture later this year.