Reaching all students through the arts was the focus of a professional development workshop taught by Youth in Arts’ mentor artists Suzanne Joyal and Cathy Bowman. San Rafael teachers who attended learned how arts can facilitate a richer experience for students and support skill building in social emotional learning.
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” (CASEL, 2019).
There are five core competencies associated with SEL including self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. The workshop focused on self-awareness. Self awareness is the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior; and the ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.” At Youth in Arts, we frame this core competency with the question: “Who Am I?”
We began with the Brain Dance, a way to warm up our bodies, fire synapses, and get students ready to learn.
Observational drawing teaches students to look closely and to record what they SEE, not what they remember or think. We start by drawing familiar objects, then move into self portraits. Observational Drawing also applies to projects in science (recording experiments), math, social studies and language arts (descriptive writing)
Self portraits can be realistic or abstract: we drew lines that represented adjectives describing us, and then experimented with mirrors and Emotions Cards: what happens to our eyebrows when we are excited? Our mouths when we are sad? What do we do when we see these expressions on our friends? What can we do to change them if needed? We used the Emotions Art Cards and Booklet to help us imagine emotions we could show.
We also introduced teachers to the Student Strengths Assessment: a tool we designed to help teachers, parents and students find their best ways of learning.
Youth in Arts has also produced a Digital Toolkit, which includes six videos on inclusive teaching practices for artists, classroom teachers and parents. We have also developed a free ARTS Bank. The database, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, allows educators, parents and students to type in an IEP goal or grade level and find an arts activity that matches.
This workshop was made possible through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received.