Voice Lab is a unique creative installation module for collecting the thoughts and opinions of children.
Children are invited one at a time into a beautifully designed, serene igloo – entirely alone. In this space they have a conversation with Voice Lab – a voice driven by a concealed live performer that asks questions, encourages opinion and regards the child as the expert.
Voice Lab encourages reflective thought and the articulation of opinions and feelings. The discussion can be completely tailored to explore children’s world views, curriculum themes, or to gather feedback on their experiences of the arts, at school or in their community.
“Voice Lab is the best thing I have ever done, it made me feel like I was being heard.” 5678 Film Club participant, St. Joseph’s Primary School
Voice Lab can be used in myriad different ways. Part of the Melbourne Fringe XS program at ArtPlay in 2018, it spoke to children about rules and the power dynamic between children and parents. It gathered feedback for Satellite Foundation, an organisation that runs programs for children of parents with a mental illness, and the Connie Benn Centre in Fitzroy. It also spoke to Polyglot’s 5678 Film Club participants to generate new ideas for films.
On International Children’s Day 2018, Voice Lab worked with the City of Greater Dandenong to ask local children what they liked and disliked about living in the area. Voice Lab was also used by RedRoad Consulting for City of Port Phillip’s Adventure Playground upgrade consultation.
In 2016, Voice Lab commenced a pilot project to test its effectiveness in social services and educational settings, in partnership with Gandel Philanthropy and Anglicare Victoria – Communities for Children Frankston. The major objective of The Voices of Children on Transition project was to gain a deeper understanding of transition experiences across the school years using Voice Lab as a tool. The aim of the project was to improve processes around transition and children’s services as a result of listening to children’s thoughts and ideas.
In late 2016, Voice Lab spoke to students moving from kinder to prep (Banyan Fields Kinder), and Year 5 and 6 students (Mahogany Rise Primary School), about change and transition; and then with the same students again in 2017, as prep and Year 7 students. Their voices were heard: in 2017, school orientation programs for Year 7 students at Monterey Secondary College and kinder students at Banyan Fields Primary School were adapted to specifically address the children’s concerns. In May 2018, Voice Lab conducted the final round of post-transition interviews.
Voice Lab was evaluated by Monash University as part of the Anglicare Victoria – Communities for Children Frankston research project.
“Voice Lab was an opportunity for students to express their thoughts across a whole range of subject areas that for them were important. It gave students the opportunity to dig deeper into their own personal worlds and reflect on feelings which they may not normally do in the hurly burly of life. It was an opportunity to stop, reflect and feel like they have been heard in a way that is helpful for their own individual growth and development. For our school it is a powerful tool. We are always looking for ways in which our students are able to get in touch with their feelings and thoughts.” John Culley, Principal, Mahogany Rise Primary School, 2017