When I was teaching high school art at the most amazing school full of incredible young people I had the honor of attending a poster making workshop with my students led by acclaimed Oakland, CA based artist/activist Favianna Rodriguez.
The workshop was so empowering for my students that I continued to use Favianna’s workshop model every year. It is powerful to witness young people coming in to their own power and realizing they have the tools, skills and voices to create change.
Although Favianna’s workshop guide is suitable for adults and professional artists to learn what she has mastered, this project can also be great for children as young as three. It is best paired with lots of conversation and reading with a loving adult. I want my own children, and yours, to feel empowered to make change in our communities. Let’s give them the tools they need to make their voices heard and feel empowered to make changes throughout their lives.
If your children are over the age of six, use Favianna’s workshop guide as is. She even provides FREE images to print and use in your poster making. If you want to see what this process looks like for the 3-6yr old set, I will model our process below as well as give some suggestions for kids’ book pairings. We didn’t have access to a working printer to print Favianna’s provided images, either, so you can see what this project looks like with limited materials.
Favianna generously shares this easy to use workshop guide FREE of charge. Consider checking out her website and supporting the good work she does in our world by purchasing some of her incredible artwork.
Make sure to tag @favianna1 on Instagram when you are finished making your poster!
Social Justice Poster Making Workshop with a Four Year Old
I’ve never facilitated this workshop with a child as young as my four year old, but I knew it would be a meaningful process for both of us
Step One: Have Conversations about Social/Racial Justice
Before you start social justice poster making, make sure you are having conversations with your little one. That little person is capable of talking about, understanding and forming opinions about social justice issues from a very young age.
We have been talking/reading about social/racial justice in age appropriate ways for a few years with Mr. Almost Four, but it has been a dedicated theme for our conversations and books since George Floyd was murdered by the police in our city on May 25, 2020.
If you have never talked to your kids about race or social justice, start now. It’s imperative. Even if (especially if) it makes you uncomfortable. Even if (especially if) you are white and live in a community with very few People of Color. If you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start, start here. You can learn and grow right along with your children.
Step Two: Read Books
Regardless of your political and/or religious beliefs, you should be reading books like these with your children and talking to them about race so they are prepared to be compassionate human beings who carry a variety of perspectives in their hearts as they shape their world views.
We own many of the books on this list and they have helped open beautiful, hard, sometimes uncomfortable (for me as an adult—not for the child, who is so ready to explore these concepts with grace and acceptance) conversations.
Step Three: Decide What to Say
For a few days, we have been talking about what my little guy can do to make changes in our community. My little guy is young, but he can use his voice to demand change. What does he want to change? What does he want to say? This conversation is exciting and empowering for children.
Help your child explore their power and voice by asking open ended questions, listening, and following the child’s lead. Conversation and vision can change as the process unfolds.
My little artist wanted to say “Make our Friends with Black Skin Safe and their Families Safe Also and Especially Their Moms and Dads Just Like Our Family Who Has White Skin with Different Rules for our Whooooooooole Crunchy (country)”. After some coaching we agreed to shorten it while maintaining the sentiment to: “Make Black Friends Safe Now”.
Step Four: Choose Images
Favianna provides amazing images for poster making in her digital workshop, but when I went to print them I realized my printer is not working. So, we used what we had, which was a Scissors Skills book full of images that are easy for little ones to practice cutting.
My little guy chose a house because “a house is safe and a home is safe”, a friend with Black skin “because we want to make people with Black skin safe”, and a variety of fun, glittery stickers.
My little guy is a bit young to grasp choosing his audience. When we talked about this he said he wants to tell “everyone in the whooooole crunchy (country)”. You can do this more meaningfully with your older children.
Step Five: Cut and Glue Images
Depending on the age of your little artist, this is a lot of work. Offer to help them if they need it. You may want to pre cut images and just have them focus on gluing, depending on age and skill level.
Step Six: Write and Glue the Words
If your little one is interested in writing, involve them in this. I’m a big believer in delayed academics to allow for learning and growth to happen through play in these early formative years, but my little guy is obsessed with letters right now. He writes many of them by himself, and I dotted the outline for him to trace the ones he was struggling with. If your child has the skills to be involved in writing the words for their poster, help them do this. If not, simply do it for them and involve them in placement instead.
Step Seven: Finishing Touches and Poster Display
My artist added a border of baby scribbles to his poster so little sister could have some involvement, and the little guy proudly took his poster for a few laps on our sidewalk while he yelled “Make Black Friends Safe Now” before he chose where to permanently display it: on our front glass door, facing the outside world.
Process over Product
Art play for children is about the process, not the product. This project will empower your little artist to make change, but when your child is “done” their poster may not look how you envisioned it would. Don’t interfere. Celebrate their process and the conversations you have surrounding social justice as they are.
Hopefully soon I’ll be able to answer “YES” when he asks me, “ do Black friends have the same safety as people with white skin like us yet, mama?” And in the meantime, I know I’m giving him the tools to use his voice and privilege to make meaningful change in our world.
I hope you make space to create social justice posters with your young children soon so they feel empowered to use their voices to create change. Dont forget to pair your poster making with adult action and modeling anti-racist behavior in your home and life. Your kids are watching and learning from you.
Find your local Showing Up for Racial Justice chapter to learn more about what you can do as an adult to get involved in anti-racist work in your community, donate to a Black led organization working for change and visit 8cantwait.org to decrease police violence in your city now.