Student Projects : Childhood Unplugged

We are so proud of the multitude of personal projects that our students start and carry on to make huge impacts in the photography community and beyond! Some of them are born from specific homework assignments for DEFINE classes and some are just inspired or encouraged by classes, teachers and the student community at DEFINE. We want to share with you Childhood Unplugged, a powerful collaborative project created by DEFINE student Monica Calderin  in response to an assignment for Michelle Gardella’s  class Awakening the Spark.

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image by Childhood Unplugged contributor Ashley Jennett


I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday. I deleted the Facebook and Instagram apps from my iPhone, turned off all my notifications for messages and emails, and kept the ringer on silent. With a beach bag on my shoulder I dropped the boys off at school and drove to Key Biscayne to spend the day for the very first time, alone at the beach.

It was a homework assignment given by Michelle Gardella in her Awakening the Spark class. A challenge really; turning off the outside noise of social media and electronics for an entire 24 hours.

I spent four hours at the beach that day before leaving to pick the boys up from school. I rented an umbrella and lounge chair and was just still. Taking in the noise of the ocean waves and breathing in the salt air, I started to feel my shoulders relax. Armed with a sketchpad and colored pencils I doodled and dreamed. That experience was eye opening for me in more ways than one.

A few days later… to say I had a lightbulb parenting moment is an understatement. My oldest and youngest were living the very same bad habits that I had been. Gadgets in hand and way too much screen time. It hit me, “these boys need to unplug!”  My middle son was the exception, because well, he’s the epitome of a child unplugged. You see, Matt has autism. He has never watched cartoons on TV or played a video game in his life. He can stay outside for hours at a time swinging and jumping on the trampoline and oh yes, pulling the leaves off the mango trees and ripping them into little tiny pieces.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone just as much as the next person and I wasn’t about to put a ‘for sale’ sign on the television or give away the Wii, but there needed to be a balance. We had a long talk as a family and set some rules. We also set goals to spend more time unplugging together as a family.

I knew that I wanted to be held accountable so I reached out and invited eleven other mothers and photographers to join me on a blogging journey of documenting our children’s childhoods, to make a conscious effort to encourage our children to get back to the art of play without the use of technology.

This idea has grown in a way that I did not see coming. It has been a year and a half since I started the blog. Recently I have started featuring guests, and I find it so encouraging to see how other moms feel about the subject of technology and childhood. I also enjoy seeing their photos of their unplugged moments. We have a strong following on Instagram and Facebook and encourage everyone to share their unplugged moments at #childhoodunplugged so that we can feature images on the IG feed. I’m humbled and grateful to see this project become a source of community and inspiration for parents across the globe. It has been encouraging to see the outpouring of support for this movement, and I’m blown away by how the Childhood Unplugged community has taken on its own persona.

– Monica Calderin


We’re thankful for Monica sharing the story behind her project and below are images and links to each of the contributors to Childhood Unplugged. You can join this movement by following their blog and Instagram feed @childhoodunplugged , liking their Facebook page and tagging your images of unplugged moments with #childhoodunplugged . What an incredible inspiration to unplug, explore and play!


 Monica Calderin


Mary Yung


Ashley Jennett


Jenny Solar

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Sharon McKeeman

CU n 1

Audrey Blake Breheney

cu_baszarkiewicz 001

Karolina Baszarkiewicz

Jennaleefilm defineschool

Jenna Lee Graham


Carolyn Mara Borlenghi


Drae Trounce


Krista Resnick

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Sharalee Prang

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4 thoughts on “Student Projects : Childhood Unplugged

  1. I am so proud to be a part of this incredible group of talent. Thank you Monica for taking the leap into this challenge for and for inviting me along for the ride.


  2. Pingback: CHILDHOOD UNPLUGGED Cute and Kids

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