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Reflections + Take Aways – Creative Expression to Build Social Emotional Learning

by Tina LaPadula

A cat sits on a couch, looking up at artwork attached to a door: a tree with leaves and birds.

The Creative Advantage hosted virtual professional learning for teachers and arts partners led by Art with Heart (AwH). Here are some reflections from facilitator Chelsey Thornton, Senior Operations Manager, AwH.

You know you had an excellent time training when attendees send pictures of their cats inspecting the creative expression they just manifested. This summer, Art with Heart had the honor of leading community learning spaces for Seattle Public Schools on using Creative Expression to Build Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in-person and online. Some of the key things we learned and took away from the training were:

  • Trauma is stored in images, sounds, and sensations. Creativity uses those same things to restore. Because of this, creative expression helps kids name and manage their emotions, develop strategies for coping, build SEL skills, and explore how to make healthy connections and communicate.
  • Cultivating group culture is just as important online as it is in-person. Building group culture and norms that everyone agrees to helps youth establish ownership. It also nurtures relationship skills, social awareness, and responsible decision making.
  • “SEL offers the possibility of acknowledging, addressing, and healing from the ways we have all been impacted by racism and systemic oppression and to create inclusive, liberatory learning environments in which students of color and students living in poverty experience a sense of belonging and agency to shape the content and process of their learning and thrive.” – National Equity Project
  • Digital equity encompasses many things in our online spaces, but particular focus should be given to: creating safe spaces online where there is consent to learn with others, a choice to be present, and as facilitators being intentional with how we are helping youth share their voice.

In all of this, remember YOU. Take time and space for the grief and loss you are experiencing as a youth-serving adult. Our worlds have shifted, and we won’t always get to do the work we anticipated. That is okay; we are showing up for each other and our communities, which is the most tremendous success.