Image: Headphones outside by Corpus Delicti from the Noun Project.  Source:

Image: Headphones outside by Corpus Delicti from the Noun Project. Source:

Sensory Storytelling: Multimodal Learning Tools for Youth in the Anthropocene

In the arts, humanities, and social sciences, a gap exists in how we do research using our senses such as sound, vision, touch, taste, and smell so that they may come together to tell more accurate stories about shared lived experiences. This project uses ethnography to study how digital tools can be used in classrooms to create more inclusive and responsive cultural and sensory learning environments. This approach is known in the field of anthropology as ‘art-based ethnography’.[ii] This project asks: What role do our senses play in navigating new understandings about the way we engage with applied research methods related to climate change? This project is innovative in its incorporation of sensory learning linked to informal science learning that addresses environmental learning outcomes, and its participatory knowledge co-creation between youth. This is a three-phased project. Phase 1 (2017-2018) began as a pilot project initiated around lived experiences of water that was documented through sound recordings and field notes by youth in the southwest of the USA. Phase 2 (2019-2021) involves the refinement of the sound-writing software and carrying out collaborative arts-based ethnographies with 4 school districts in Canada, the USA, and Ireland as field sites.


PI: Dr. Fiona P. McDonald, PhD (UBCO)

Co-PI: Dr. Benjamin Day Smith, Sound and Technology Engineer (IUPUI, USA

Co-PI: Dr. Karen Ragoonaden (UBCO, Director, Center for Mindful Engagement in the Okanagan School of Education)


Mr. Neal Anderson, MEng., Sound Technician Contractor

Mr. Ted Hayworth, School Teacher, Wildrose Elementary School, St. Alberta, Alberta, Canada

Ms. Diana Bran, ESL School Teacher, Douglas Elementary School, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Mrs. Sarah Eves-Gauchupin, Orchestra Director, Geneva School of Boerne, Texas, USA

Mrs. Fionnuala Uí Mhurchú, School Teacher, Butlersbridge National School, Co. Cavan, Ireland


Howes, David. 2003. Sensing Culture: Engaging the Senses in Cultural and Social Theory. Ann Arbour, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Stoller, Paul. 1997. Sensous Scholarship. Philadelphia: UPenn Press.

Feld, Steven and Keith Basso (eds). 1996. Senses of Place. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.

Schneider, A. and C. Wright. 2013. Anthropology and Art Practice. London: Bloomsbury.