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Four school staff and four parents agreed to be interviewed. Three themes were derived from the data: using art to make meaning as an individual; making art with the context of a school after a disaster; and using art to make meaning as a school community. Each theme will be explored separately.

Using art to make meaning as an individual

This theme drew out the impact of the digital stories on the individuals who participated in the project and is based on three subthemes: healing; expression of emotion; and owning my own story.

A number of people interviewed expressed healing as a result of being involved in the project. This healing took the form of reduced anxiety or a calmer emotional state:

My daughter was struggling so bad because she’s only young - she found it fabulous - it calmed her down a bit and gave her something else to think about... because there would be no tears and you could actually deal with, whereas beforehand you couldn’t speak about it.

Because we did the Afloat after the tornadoes there was a bit of grieving time so to speak. I think it worked really well as the kids were able to open up without being upset.

For some, there was more of an anxiety to put the memories behind them and they interpreted healing more from the perspective of being able to forget:

It was a good thing to do, but I think after it’s done you don’t need to keep being reminded about it, you’ve got to move on with life.

This different interpretation of healing is related to the second subtheme of expression of emotion. This related to art providing a safe outlet of working through emotions associated with the disaster events:

Also just a nice non-threatening way to talk about it - a fun way to express their feelings because like a lot of the time getting pulled aside one-on-one to talk about their experiences can be pretty daunting for them... So there were quite a lot of feelings and quite a lot of visuals they were describing.

Kids have got no other way to come out and say how they’re feeling.

It was a really positive thing, we could actually see what the kids had seen and they cope in their minds by expressing themselves the way they did.

Being able to express their emotions allowed the children to start to own their own stories and see their place in their own experiences:

Just the artwork itself - so she took it home and showed her dad and told her sister all about it and stuff and they asked questions and she was right, and I didn’t step in, I just stayed right back and let her put her own take on it. She was really right in there talking about it.

Now they got to tell their own story and how they felt about everything.

One of the boys had made a helicopter and it came in, and it was a paper helicopter and it was a visual one, and getting rescued offthe roof, and being able to create that and see how that goes in the story obviously that would have had a great impact being able to get that out on paper because maybe they were not allowed to say that out loud.

Together, these subthemes suggest the children participating in the digital stories project found the art provided them with a space to deal with their emotions and to start to make meaning from their experiences as individuals.

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