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Healing through Art

Healing through Art

Date of the Event: June 25, 2020 | Aselin Flowers,Dr. Kristin Carothers, and Dr. Seth Shaffer
Woman drawing with her daughter Show Notes:

In this webinar we were joined by Aselin Flowers from ArtReach at George Washington University, an organization that aspires to be a cornerstone for community engagement through visual art-based work. We tapped into our creative side through a live demonstration of mixed-media journaling facilitated by Aselin Flores. Also, in the Question Corner, child psychologists Dr. Kristin Carothers and Dr. Seth Shaffer return to answer questions on how to process and cope with feelings of stress and trauma that may have surfaced because of the pandemic and the current manifestations of racism due to police violence.

Megan: Welcome to this week’s Family Room. My name is Megan Waters and I am the Director of Programs in DC for Turning the Page. We are so excited for you to be joining us today. While we talk about playing through art, Expressing yourself with mixed media journaling, and we have Aselin Flowers, the director ArtReach GW, which builds connection and community through art.

[00:00:35] Before we jump into today’s webinar, again, we are going to take a moment of...

Megan: Welcome to this week’s Family Room. My name is Megan Waters and I am the Director of Programs in DC for Turning the Page. We are so excited for you to be joining us today. While we talk about playing through art, Expressing yourself with mixed media journaling, and we have Aselin Flowers, the director ArtReach GW, which builds connection and community through art.

[00:00:35] Before we jump into today’s webinar, again, we are going to take a moment of silence because Breon Taylors’ murderer has still not been brought to justice and every day there’s new reports that killings continue to go on. We know that the moment of silence is one way that we can respect and reflect on the lives that were lost.

[00:00:56] But more importantly what needs to happen, it is a call to action to change the systemic racism, that is incredibly proactive and absolutely a pandemic right now in our country. So we’re going to take a moment before we begin.

[00:01:25] [silence]

[00:01:27] As you know The Family Room is brought to you by MAEC and Turning the Page on a weekly basis to connect and share a space to continue the conversation. And bring parents and educators, some exciting features that they can bring back the students and communities they work with.

[00:01:46] We are going to today, reintroduce our top of mind question and then jump into expressing yourself through art and continuing the discussion around the race in the question corner. Dr. Kristen Carothers is joining us again. As our resident child psychologist Seth Shaffer.

[00:02:07] If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to use question and answer box as well as the chat box throughout the time we are here today. We are trying to answer as many questions as we can get to. And if we don’t  answer them today we’re write some responses in our newsletter that goes out through MAEC on a weekly basis.

[00:02:28] Mariela Puentes is going to introduce CAFE to everyone.

[00:02:32] Mariela: Thank you, Megan. And welcome everyone. We’re happy to be continuing this collaborative effort between MAEC and Turning the Page. As Megan mentioned, part of this is to provide a space for families to connect and share strategies with one another.

[00:02:47] So a little bit about MAEC. We are an educational nonprofit in Bethesda, Maryland founded in 1991. We are dedicated to increasing access to a high quality education for culturally, linguistically and economically diverse learners. Our vision is a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. And MAEC’s mission is to promote excellence and equity and education to achieve social justice.

[00:03:20] CAFE, the collaborative action for family engagement center is a project of MAEC. We apply an equity lens to family engagement. By building relationships among schools, parents, and community organizations, we improve the development and academic achievement of all students.

[00:03:37] We are the statewide family engagement center for Maryland and Pennsylvania, and are funded through a Federal Department of Education grant for statewide family engagement centers. And now we’ll pass it back to Megan.

[00:03:52] Megan: Great. So Turning the Page is another nonprofit and we connect basically our elementary schools to all of the high quality resources in Chicago and DC. And on [inaudible] with our parents and how do you share resources and conversation in events, like today.

[00:04:17] So before we go into our next section with Aselin, we want to talk about a question.

[00:04:24] How do you process feelings of stress and trauma that may be surfacing because of the pandemic and the current manifestations of racism due to police violence?

[00:04:41] Dr. Shaffer: Thanks Megan. And Kristin, I know that you’re, there you are, Kristen.

[00:04:45] Dr. Carothers: Yes I’m here. Hi.

[00:04:48] Dr. Shaffer: Welcome back. I didn’t know if, sorry, just a little technical thing here. If any of you are having difficulty hearing what it seems like is Megan’s internet connection might be a little bit, something might be off Megan, you know, it’s nothing to do with, you might be out of your control, but we apologize for that. We’re gonna work on, we’re going to work on it and roll with it here.

[00:05:08]Kristen, did you want to start out responding to that question and I’ll be happy to chime in?

[00:05:12] Dr. Carothers: Sure, I’m just going to reread the question because sometimes it helps me to be able to answer it succinctly. I’ve heard it very soon in my own words.

[00:05:20] So how do you, well, not in my own words. But how do you process feelings of stress and trauma that may be surfacing because of the pandemic and the current manifestations of racism due to police violence?

[00:05:33] I think this question is something that resonates with us all. And one of the things that I would say is to notice and acknowledge changes in your mood and changes in your patterns and ways of being.

[00:05:46] So for myself, I’ve noticed that I’m a little bit more nervous. I’m having difficulty falling asleep at night. And I went to the doctor and my blood pressure was even higher. And I don’t typically have high blood pressure. What I think everyone should know, adults and kids alike, is that the stress associated with the COVID pandemic and the racism pandemic in our country is contributing to our everyday functioning. And it’s okay to acknowledge that we’re being impacted by it.

[00:06:14] And so I think the first steps is that we need to really acknowledge the fact that we may be experiencing changes in our moods and emotion, changes in physical symptoms, maybe some difficulty sleeping.

[00:06:25] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah.

[00:06:25] Dr. Carothers: And once we acknowledge that, then we can move forward in terms of planning, how to actually deal with the trauma.

[00:06:31] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Kristen. And, specifically, like if you are noticing any of the things that Kristen mentioned, either in yourself or your child or whoever, whatever young person, young people, you’re helping to take care of. You can contact and Jen is going to post this in the chat. A, I don’t know if it’s 1-800 number or 1-866 number, which is, to SAMHSA, which is, a government organization, there it is. Thank you, Jen.

[00:06:56] So if you’re not sure that something you’re experiencing or again someone, you know is, could be related to trauma or your concerned. And maybe want to talk with a professional, we would encourage you to do so.

[00:07:07] One thing in particular, when it comes to children, that you can look for as far as how they’re coping with stress and or trauma is for children, particularly over six, like repetitive play. So they might be reenacting you could say a one or more traumatic events that they’ve experienced through their play, right? So, a seven year old might be playing with Legos and over and over again, there’s this theme of, you know, police violence, for example, against someone or something like that.

[00:07:37] That would be an example. And I know, are awesome speaker who’s coming here in just a minute, Aselin is going to, as an art therapist, is going to get more into working with children, through art therapy and, you know, ways to express themselves through play. Cause that is a healthy thing.

[00:07:53]Two other things I just want to add on. If you, if you want to take it upon yourself to try and help, you know, your child or whoever you’re taking care of, you know, relax or, you know, engage in what we would call a grounding exercise, we’re going to post, Jen’s going to post a couple of links. One of them is this five finger breathing technique. So you can click on the link and watch the video. And do that technique with, you can do it yourself with people who you’re living with, et cetera.

[00:08:23] And then another one is a grounding technique, which would be more distraction based. Because those who might be experiencing trauma or symptoms related to trauma, they tend to get stuck in their mind, with whatever the traumatic event was, whether they’re having a memory, right, or a flashback or they’re remembering a nightmare, they might’ve had or something like that.

[00:08:44] And which means that the person could not be present. And so to help a child or you yourself to become present, you can use maybe a distraction based or grounding technique, like the five, four, three, two, one grounding technique. And again, the five finger breathing is a good visual for children and that, cause it’s both physical, something you can do by running your finger along your, I’m not modeling it that well, but you can watch the video should be done slower and you, you know, you’re controlling your breathing as you’re doing it. So it’s a good visual for children. It’s something physical and they’re controlling their breath at the same time. So it’s interactive.

[00:09:16] Dr. Carothers: I love those ideas. I think one other thing, sometimes, if we can’t remember to do some of the techniques, we might just need to engage in the behavior that just totally shifts our mood. So if you’ve had like the TV on and you’ve been triggered or you’ve been reading the newspaper, you might do something that just changes your mood. So I saw in the chat, someone said they’ve been doing yoga in the mornings with their kids, or they’re getting out for exercise.

[00:09:40] Another thing to do is maybe watch something that’s funny, you know, watch something that is totally the opposite of what you’ve been focused on. Just to give yourself some temporary relief. It doesn’t solve long term problems, but sometimes we just need our moves to shift a little bit so that we can move on to the next moment of time and not get stuck.

[00:09:57] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah. Yeah. And adding onto that, building off what you said, Kristen, the importance of like nurturing ourselves and watering ourselves, so to speak so that we continue to grow all the time.

[00:10:09] Not necessarily waiting for something traumatic or stressful to happen. So like daily exercise, you know, yoga, like Kristin mentioned, you know, referenced a listener said that’s wonderful. Getting your child out of the, of your apartment or you’re building, your home safe safely. While social distancing. So they can get that vitamin D, you know, feel the skin, you know, sun on their skin, and things like that, but doing it on a daily basis, playing with your child, again, through art, which I know Aselin is going to get more into it. And I’m excited about that. But the daily nurture is important.

[00:10:44] Megan: Great. I may have still some technical issues that need to be worked out, but in the meantime, we are going to move in to our presentation, and kind of some of the things that Seth and Kristen just touched on. And we are so excited. To have Aselin Flowers, the director at ArtReach GW. She’s going to share some more information of her program.

[00:11:15] [inaudible]

[00:11:17] Aselin: All right.

[00:11:33] I don’t know if anyone else is experiencing a little bit of feedback, which kind of cut off a little bit for me at the end. So I’m just going to reiterate, for you. But hello everyone and thank you for welcoming me into this space. So while I’m giving this presentation we’re gonna do a short little activity.

[00:11:49]So this is something that my art therapist normally does to kind of open up every session. It is just a quick three to five minute activity for you take some time to recognize what type of mood you’re in and recognize your feelings at the moment. So if you have a small piece of paper, or even if it’s just a sticky note and a pencil or Sharpie or some type of coloring material, just gonna spend a few minutes, using that circle on the inside to kind of express your current mood.

[00:12:17] So, while you’re doing that, I’m going to talk a little bit about Mendalas or Mandala. I’ve heard it pronounced both ways, but, Mandela basically means circle in Sanskrit. So in many different religions and across many different cultures the circle is sort of a universal symbol for unity and wholeness.

[00:12:36] So by taking the time to kind of focus your energy inside that circle, it kind of helps you center yourself on where you are and recognizing where you are in your current mental state. So I’m going to give about two minutes, and then I will move on to the next slide, which you can continue as I present.

[00:13:00] [silence]

[00:13:09] And then also, if you are attempted to go outside of the circle, that’s completely okay as well.

[00:13:22] [silence]

[00:13:28] Another thing I want to quickly note, it’s a common practice amongst the Buddhist monks. If you kind of just Google Mendala and Buddhism. You’ll see a lot of examples of Mendalas, just made out of sand. So they would spend hours making these elaborate, patterns and designs using colored sand. And then at the end, they were actually destroyed.

[00:14:21] So you go through this whole process of creation and destruction. So it’s kind of like a life cycle. And they usually take, they sweep up the sand in a particular fashion, and then sometimes they take that sand and spray it into the oceans, kind of like releasing it back into the earth. So it becomes this whole meditative process. But there’s been Mendalas made in many different forms.

[00:14:50] So I’m going to show you one that I just did with pen. If you could see that, this was like a couple of weeks ago, so obviously, you can see that I was clearly a little bit stressed, but also I can describe this as like, this is how my brain works. There’s always a million different things on my mind and it may not necessarily connect.

[00:15:08] That’s why they have all these circles they’re related, but they don’t necessarily connect. Because it’s like a little problem in each kind of, sort of circle for me. So sometimes it may be that it’s just scribbles and you just need to get something and get your frustration out. Sometimes they can end up being more controlled,  abstract or colorful.

[00:15:27] Oh, I see there. Is that the beach, or an ocean? Is that like waves?

[00:15:32] Dr. Shaffer: A little bit of a wavy ocean, kind of a current happening there. And then there’s a, somewhat of a dark cloud covering the sun, but there’s still rays of sunshine coming through on that other end.

[00:15:41] Aselin: So there’s still some hope.

[00:15:43] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah.

[00:15:48] Aselin: Okay. Camera just switch views. Okay. So we have, looks like you had some straight lines in the middle, some vertical lines, and then like these little, little circle. You get a little bit out of the circle a little bit. You want to talk about it? Oh, you’re on mute. [chuckles]

[00:16:06] Dr. Carothers: I’m back. It’s been a bit of a stressful week. I lost a family member, but was happy for that family member to have to release that. And I’m trying to kind of just kind of adjust to like the, I loved when you said that, like there’s a cycle in terms of life and that it’s okay to release things. So yeah.

[00:16:29] Aselin: All right. Thank you for sharing, I appreciate that.

[00:16:32] We can go back to the slide. Yep. So first I’m going to talk a little bit about ArtReach that I’m going to spend too much time on it. Cause I want to get to actually the topic of discussion today. So at the base we’re a community arts program, we are part of the George Washington Universities National Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. So the mission of the national center is to integrate civic engagement into GWS educational work, but also use GWS resources to affect and make change in the surrounding DC community.

[00:17:03] Even though we’re part of GW, we are located off campus in the community. So we’re located in Ward eight at THEARC. And if you haven’t heard of THEARC before, it stands for town hall arts and recreation campus. So I kind of say it’s a nonprofit mall or humanitarian mall, but there’s also 13 other nonprofit organizations there, all with a common mission of servicing residents who live in Ward seven and eight of DC, which is considered some, one of the most, or two of the most underserved wards in the area.

[00:17:34] Next slide please. So the mission of ArtReach is to make connections between people and their communities through art. It would do that in many different ways. And I’ll talk about that, on the next slide art. ArtReach has been around since 1992 and has existed in many different forms. But we’ve been a part of THEARC since 2005.

[00:17:54] Our vision is to aspire to be the cornerstone for community engagement through visual arts based work. So we do a lot of community engaged projects as well.

[00:18:05] So here’s a brief overview of the programs that we offer, are sort of a large program is our afterschool classes where we work with kids ages eight to 18 in a range of topics and mediums. We also partner with other organizations at THEARC and the community to create content for classes, and bring new ideas as well for classes.

[00:18:26] We also have the portfolio them program for high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts. So it’s helping them prepare a portfolio in order to apply for college or an arts magnet school. So it is a more advanced training, more fine arts based.

[00:18:42] And then what I’m going to go into more detail about is our art journaling program, which is our art therapy based program that we have for families and adults. Then again, I mentioned we do a lot of community engaged projects.

[00:18:55] At THEARC we also have our own dedicated exhibition space that we use for student exhibitions. But while student shows are not on display, we also cater to local artists. So we try to stick with artists who live in ward seven and eight, but also in the larger DC community. So we usually have a show every month. So about 10 to 12 exhibitions a year.

[00:19:19] Alright, so here’s, we’re at the main topic of discussion. So those of you who are not familiar with art therapy or understand what or don’t understand what art therapy may be, I’m going to try to explain it for you. So it’s basically a, therapeutic or therapeutic technique to help treat mental disorders by using the creative process. That’s the most basic way I can put it into context.

[00:19:47] And so, but then also not just to treat mental health disorders, but you can use it in your daily practice. So I am not an art therapist, but we have art therapist who facilitate these classes. So it’s very important if you are, if you do want to get into an art therapy class and it’s something that you want to take seriously, that you make sure that you’re working with a licensed, Mental health specialists.

[00:20:12] So our program, our journaling program is used in art therapy and influence classes. So, but we call it art journaling because that’s the basis of the method that we use to reach our participants or have them engage in.

[00:20:27] So art journaling is the process of recording your thoughts, ideas, feelings, using words, images, lines, or shapes into a journal. So in our classes, we normally give participants journals. But I’m going to talk about different method in the next slide. So you normally start with the blank journal and you use this throughout the whole entire process. And a lot of warm up things happen in the journal, but also some projects may come outside of the journal, but it’s kind of like what we use to kind of start the intention for the semester in each class.

[00:20:59] So it’s a tool for mindfulness, relaxation and self care. So having something physical to put your thoughts in, or express yourself in, helps people. I kind of call it, call it, like taking your brain out of your head for a second, to kind of help you process what’s going on.

[00:21:14] Most people don’t realize how physical the process of art-making can be. Cause you’re really getting your hands into the materials and you’re using your hand and your mind. They’re actually working together to kind of express what you may be feeling on the inside. And then not to mention it’s just a fun process because you get to work with a lot of different materials, and you get to explore a lot of different topics and range of things.

[00:21:37] And it’s also, you kind of learning about yourself and others. So on the, sorry, can I go back one slide? So on the photo on the left that’s was gonna explain it really quickly. This was from one of our recent family classes that we did in the spring. Like once we went into quarantine and we tried to transition into virtual classes, we kind of tried to continue at least with the art therapy classes. Cause we felt like that was the most useful during this time period.

[00:22:05] So you can see that they incorporated some of their own photos and, obviously it was around Easter time, so they kind of as a family kind of wrote prayers and kind of put them in a little pocket inside of their journal.

[00:22:21] So the method I’m going to talk about is altered books, which is kind of like one of my favorite methods is. If they don’t have a journal, or you don’t have the means to go out and buy a sketchbook or a journal, you can always use a book that you already have in your home.

[00:22:34] So an altered books is the process of changing the used book from its original form to a different form using mixed media techniques and journal prompts. So most of the time it’s best to have a hard cover book. And some people are like, well, I love to read, I don’t want to destroy my books, not asking you to destroy your books, but maybe it’s a book that you know you’re not going to pick up again. Or even if you just go to the thrift store, sometimes they have books for like 50 cents. There’s even a thrift store in Baltimore based on books, and they allow you just to take books for free. They have like a whole warehouse of unclaimed books. Or books that people have given away.

[00:23:10] So sometimes best to have a hard cover book cause you’re working with different color materials and you don’t really want it to kind of sort of fall apart. Hard cover is just a more durable book. But here’s a list of suggested materials. Some of the materials mainly should have already around your house, except for like paint, but like glue, tape, scissors, magazines, some type of coloring material, you can use fabric.

[00:23:32] There’s one participant that we have currently, she has a kind of like a comfort jar or box where she puts all these little trinkets into. So she’s been incorporating those into her books.

[00:23:42] You look at the image on the left, this is a mother who is creating a book, that’s going to be entitled Letters to my Daughter. So she has like a five or six year old. And she’s using this  book to kind of communicate to her daughter. So she’s writing letters in there about her current feelings about the pandemic and the racism that’s currently going on. But you can see on the cover, she’s incorporated some fake flowers onto the book, along with the paint. So she’s just like hot glue those on. So you can really use any materials to incorporate inside your book.

[00:24:19]There are many different ways to create pages. So the book on the left, you can see there’s even been pages ripped out, that’s sometimes that may be therapeutic for some folks, even though you’re not going to use all 200 pages in the book. You can feel free to take pages out as well.

[00:24:33] Sometimes just scribbling helps us to get out that frustration, like just close your eyes and scribble. Then open your eyes and kind of like, look at your lines and see what you’ve created. Or just color in some of the spaces to create interesting things.

[00:24:46] And then on the right, using found objects. That’s like a starfish that’s been glued into a book. Next page, again, creating like a pocket, and writing letters to yourself or statements of gratitude.

[00:25:02] On the right. The nice thing about having already used book is that you don’t have to really start with the blank page. So it’s not that intimidating. So you can also incorporate the texts from the book as well. And also people cut into the books to make, I’ll show you in a little bit three dimensional objects as well.

[00:25:22]This is one of my favorite things to do is creating blackout poetry. So again, like using the words on the page, so you can maybe read the page and find words that kind of create a poem or make a sentence and you can kind of black out the, the rest of the words. So then around it, people have done different, as you can see, different things to kind of decorate the page as well. And sometimes it’s even therapeutic to even just take a Sharpie and just cross out things.

[00:25:54] So this is from a recent participant in one of the classes that we just finished. And this is kind of one of my favorite books that I’ve seen created so far. And so this is from a mom who is experiencing the alopecia and she knows she couldn’t there wasn’t a lot of books out there about black women and alopecia. And so she’s decided to make her own. So she took an actual book about alopecia and kind of was altering it to make it her own. And what I love about this book as well, is that on the inside, she starting to write her own story. And so she eventually wants to publish her own book about her story for alopecia. So it’s entitled Afro alopecia and on the front, those are, the picture in the middle is an actual image of her. And some other figures who in the media who are experiencing alopecia currently.

[00:26:48] Okay. So it’d be kind of, and those are her own, I’m sorry, go back when these are her own words about the book as well.

[00:26:58] Dr. Shaffer: Sorry Aselin, I actually have a quick question. I didn’t know what alopecia was and I just quickly looked it up. Do you mind sharing what it is, just for those who might not know?

[00:27:07] Aselin: Yes. So alopecia, long story short, it’s basically just hair loss. And sometimes, it actually is common amongst African American women, but they don’t really depend on what form of alopecia you have, they really don’t know what the cause of it is. So normally most alopecia people get, as they age, they start to lose hair. Some may be due to medical condition cause sometimes like anemia can cause alopecia. But basically what happens is that your hair follicles, the root of your hair follicles start to close up or get inflamed. And so that will cause the root to kind of swell up and prevent your hair from actually growing.

[00:27:50] So, as you can see, she ended up being very open about it and got deeply, personal for her, but I was surprised that she got to that point so quickly of her being willing to share about her experience and being open and honest about it.

[00:28:08]This participant, as you can see, took a different form. She’s actually cut the pages of her book to create a shape. I’m just going to read her quote because I think she just described it really well. So she said the original title of the book that I have, sorry trying to move this screen’s up, I have altered is Finding the Can in Cancer. I wanted to also the book as defiance against cancer. Many people suffer and are stressed out during the process of healing. I wanted to express support, love and caring to those people through this altered book.

[00:28:44] So one other thing I wanted to actually point out too, that this is an elderly lady and she, English is not her first language. So when she was kind of describing what she was saying, I was just personally just proud of her for being courageous, to kind of, express her feelings in the eloquent way. I know sometimes she’s a little self conscious about speaking English and, our therapist, she does speak Spanish, so it kind of helps her a little, a little bit as well, but I thought that was just very courageous for her to just kind of, write this statement.

[00:29:21] And so with the art journaling process, you know, like now in class, you don’t just get a journal and just start. There’s always an intention set at the beginning of the class. And one way that’s set is by giving participants prompts. So sometimes people kind of know what they want to do coming in, but sometimes it’s nice to give them ideas. Or something to focus on for that period of time.

[00:29:44] So, so for example, a magical place, one that we just had a class yesterday afternoon, they were illustrating their safe place. And kind of talking about that. Writing letters to someone that’s on your mind, doing some gratification statements, like what brings me joy. Writing down your self care routine. It could be something simple as like, what’s your favorite animal.

[00:30:05] But you’ll be surprised at starting with these simple quotes at how in depth people get over course of like an hour or an hour, hour and a half of the class time. And sometimes it’s not just a journal prompt that you start with.

[00:30:21] Sometimes it may be a material. People realize like how therapeutic different materials can be. So for example, I used to teach middle school art and middle schoolers, they love clay. And I never really understood why until a couple of years afterwards, is that it’s very therapeutic for them to kind of pound get that frustration now and just like pound the clay. That’s the first thing a child doesn’t get a piece of clay, that they want to pound it, throw it, play with it. So getting out that kind of built in anger and frustration is very therapeutic for them.

[00:30:53] Some people love water color. Some people hate water color because water color is hard to control, but at the same time easier to mix and blend colors. So that can be more therapeutic. Some people, may not prefer paint and want a Sharpie for something that’s more bold and direct. And you know what you’re going to get when you make a line on the paper versus a paintbrush. So sometimes the materials can also contribute to the therapeutic process.

[00:31:20] And here is just contact information, in case you want to learn more about ArtReach on our website. You follow us on Instagram, you can see more examples of what we do in our program, or you can feel free to email me at the ArtReach email if you have any questions.

[00:31:35] Dr. Shaffer: All right. [claps hands]

[00:31:40] Pulling audible here, we’re having some technical issues. So I’m going to jump in there for Megan, Aselin, if you don’t mind, and those who are viewing. And the rest of our team here can jump in too. We are a team and we roll with it. Thank you all for being patient.

[00:31:52] Here’s a question for you. Aselin from one of our participants here. I’m worried that my seven year old won’t ask for help when he’s feeling uncomfortable. He tends to get angry. And I often think he’s feeling sad or frustrated, but he just gets angry. What are ways I can use art to address it?

[00:32:12] Aselin: I think that’s a great question. But I can talk about an examples of something that happened with a student in one of my family classes. She has an adopted, she adopted as a son and, he’s very active and he was kind of resistant towards the class at first. But now he’s like one of our favorite people that are there. But, one thing that helped is kind of, sort of, if you finding what they’re interested in and what they, you just find like one simple thing to talk to them about whether I’m being stereotypical, but like say if he likes a sport or something and finding some way to talk to him through that, that will kind of help break down the barrier a little bit and maybe make him a little bit more comfortable.

[00:32:57]Sometimes it’s also, like we usually have volunteers in the class as well, like student volunteers who help. So we had, it may be someone else that may need to talk to him that he’s more comfortable talking with, to kind of help see where the anger is coming from. But they need to have another like close family member they may be close with maybe that that’s the way to reach him as well. I hope that kinda answers the question.

[00:33:22] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah, I think it absolutely did. I mean, what you’re, what you’re suggesting then is to kind of meet your child where he or she is at. And try to join their world. And so if they’re more into sports, you kind of go with that and that’s a form of expression. If they’re into arts specifically, you kind of join in them with them and maybe do some art with them.

[00:33:41] Maybe, you know, slip in some questions about, Hey, what’s this thing that you drew? What’s that thing that you drew? So that you’re taking the focus, maybe off this child who seems to get more triggered with or more angry with more like direct questions about their feelings.

[00:33:54] Aselin: Right

[00:33:55] Dr. Shaffer: So you kind of pull back a little bit and adjust and work with and meet them where they’re at.

[00:34:00] Aselin: Right.

[00:34:00] Dr. Shaffer: Which is what I’m hearing. So those are some good suggestions. We’ve got another question for you. Chat rooms on fire here.

[00:34:06] How has, excuse me, how is art incorporated into the standard curriculum while maintaining the integrity of content and context?

[00:34:19] Aselin: So this is a heavy question and we can also spend a whole other session on this question. Me personally, like I said, I used to be an educator and so, and I think it differs by County and by state. So I live in Maryland, so, and I used to teach in Montgomery County. And so they’re very, Montgomery County and PG are very good about supporting the arts and arts curriculum.

[00:34:40] But one thing I will say, I hope to kind of touch on your question is that, I guess whoever you’re working with in terms of like curriculum is getting them to realize that art is its own discipline. So it has a history, it has a language, and it has an evolving history, there’s a lot interesting things that are happening now.

[00:34:59] So I think respecting that and recognizing that at first and kind of teaching that as well, will help maintain the integrity of what art is, and what art can be. Because there’s many different theories about what art is out there as well. And even like within our program, we touch on those different, areas of art but we’re also always trying to incorporate something about current artists or past artists or trends in history, and kind of, sort of maintain that integrity of the arts.

[00:35:28] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah, absolutely great response. I also want to just to share my son who is six and a half, he, when he’s having big feelings and I think not unlike maybe some kids his age give or take, you know, age. The words don’t always come out, because the feeling might be too big. And so he uses art to express his feelings and his thoughts in significant ways. For instance, yesterday, I was trying to get into practice the piano and he was not having it. And I know it’s a tough instrument, I get it, but he likes the piano and he just is challenged by something that’s hard, which a lot of us are. So I’m trying to build up that grit. And later on, I kind of pulled back right, as a parentright. And then within minutes he had written down on a piece of paper what he was feeling. He just, that was his go to, and that’s from like us, you know, me and my wife reinforcing his expression through art and you know, saying how proud of.

[00:36:24] And then whenever I found the piece of paper on a table and I was like, Hey, Julian, let’s talk about this, is that okay? Cause he asked us questions that he wrote down, but didn’t ask us as his parents directly. So we went through it and we were like, we’re so proud of you for writing that down, et cetera. And then the second thing is, which wasn’t like, you know, literary, or he didn’t write it, but he drew this picture recently with seeing what’s on the news and the uprising and you know, everything that’s going on. And that was how he expressed himself using characters from this, great children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems. So he incorporated those characters, but then had them expressed it, my wife chimed in too, you can see, she wrote on a couple of those sides.

[00:37:04] So this was a way, and there was a question here about. Which may be Kristin and I can also get into how can preschool age children take action? My son’s in kindergarten, but how can preschool age children take action? [movement sound effect] That is a way to take action, because they we will have conversations.

[00:37:21] Aselin: I will have to say like, I am your son. Like, I always say, like, I can show you better than I can tell you. And that’s why, for me, like art was my way of finding my voice. And I had really good art teachers in high school that helped me kind of inspire me be where I am today. But I took an AP art history class and that just like opened up my world, like now understand history through studying, through the study of art history. I understand, I know history a lot better.

[00:37:44] But, well, yeah, like even now, even my self personally, like I’ve made, there’s been a lot of things on social media and that’s kind of just depresses me every time I go on. So I recently, I made some art about kind of, sort of what’s happening and kind of helped me better process what’s going on.

[00:38:01]I also, for example, I had started a pregnancy journal, so right before this pandemic happened, I’ve gone into quarantine. I was just, there’s a lot of anxiety and stress like being pregnant during this timeframe. And so I started, what I started doing is incorporating, I’ll show you example, collage into my journal.

[00:38:19] So I was kind of, I took old paints I did on paper and start to cut those up to kind of, sort of expressed like my anxiety. I do writing in there as well, but then the feelings that I was going through while all this was happening.

[00:38:33] Jen: Yeah, Aselin, thank you so much for sharing. Generally, so hello, I’m Jen, I’m popping in for Megan, with the technical difficulties. So I want to say one more big, thank you to Aselin for everything that you shared. And thank you, Seth, for also sharing your kids’ artwork. And we’re going to transition into talking with Seth and Kristin.

[00:38:56] And, so if you have other questions for them, please put them in the chat box or the Q and A. And I want to start with something that, Seth, you started to touch on that. How can preschool age children take action? And broaden it a little bit, just to say, how can children take action? Right now, at this moment in time, when we’re talking about having a pandemic within a pandemic and what that means for them?

[00:39:23] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah. Kristen, are you there?

[00:39:26] Dr. Carothers: I’m here.

[00:39:27] Dr. Shaffer: Okay, get in there.

[00:39:28] Dr. Carothers: Okay  I love the drawing that your son did. I think that’s awesome. So I’m the parent of a four year old son and he’s experienced more of the racism issues than I thought he had experienced. And it came up in some dreams. And one of the things that I talked to a family of mine that has a kid that’s about the same age and has been dealing with some trauma is, if, okay, I love the drawings, but another thing is allowing kids to kind of be active with their hands and feel like they have purpose.

[00:40:01] So at six and four, they’re a little bit young, maybe we’re not necessarily going to protest or if we are going to protest, what can they do? And so how can they, feel like they can impact change? I love the idea of having them to draw and to share their drawings with family members. And to also participate in one of the people in the chat said that she and her kids will draw together. And so someone will start the picture and will, and they’ll move it forward. And they’ll continue it. And it’s, I think it’s a good way of expressing feelings.

[00:40:31] We’ve had a lot of conversations. I didn’t think we would have at such a young age, but I think, if a kids who for whom it’s difficult to express that or words, Seth like having your son draw it out and using, and having them almost make a cartoon or make their own storybook. And have scenes and just being able to really express their thoughts is, is really a nice way to do it.

[00:40:52] Dr. Shaffer: And using, and I think, the author and activist, Christine, who was on either  last week or the week before, I forget…

[00:40:58] Dr. Carothers: Yes.

[00:40:58] Dr. Shaffer: She mentioned the importance of using language like racism and prejudice and social justice. And then if your child’s four, six and a half, nine, whatever, you just adjust, maybe defining it to use language that would resonate with your particular child.

[00:41:16] So if you want to, Kristen, do you want to share even language that you’ve used with your four year old?

[00:41:22] Dr. Carothers: Yeah, so I think, last Friday was Juneteenth and it was the first time that anybody in my family had ever celebrated it. I was aware of it, but family members weren’t aware. And we really wanted to have like our tee shirts and things. And so we were at a store having shirts made. And, but before we went, I had to explain to my son what day it was. And I said, it’s Juneteenth, and this is the day that black people were free. Now I wanted to give him more information because of my own black needs to be like, we were slaves in this country and then we were emancipated and some of us were free first and others of us had to wait.

[00:42:01] But as a four year old, he doesn’t even understand the concept of slavery or the concept of, you know, that type of bondage and being free. And so I, I wanted to give him more, but I had a conversation with his dad and we agreed, bite size information that that might be too much. And so we said free and he said, okay, great and he ran away and he’s got these tee shirts. One of the things that I worry is, did I give him enough information at four, should I have given more? When I checked it out with other family members and friends, they said, you’ll have opportunities to give even more information, but he is aware that he’s black.

[00:42:35] We have, black storybooks, that we read, I think we love Mo Willems too. And Mo Willems uses animals, which I think is really nice. And, but I think that for kids, especially black kids, they do need to see themselves in print and in art. And so one of the things that we’ve really tried to do is to make sure that we have some black art out and around the home so that he can see images that look like him in art and in the stories he reads.

[00:43:01] And so the language that I’ve used has really been language that’s been based on books that we read. So there are some books about even the right to vote. It’s called, there’s a book called Granddaddy’s Turn and it’s about a little boy in the South going with his grandfather to the polls for the first time. His grandfather wasn’t allowed to vote, but he still went to the polls.

[00:43:21] And so he and his dad read that book last week. And it kind of went in line with the poles being open and Kentucky and New York and Georgia and difficulties that arose. So we didn’t have specific conversation with him about what’s happening now, but we are having some of those historical conversations through story books with pictures. So that’s, that’s been our approach for now.

[00:43:44] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s, that’s super helpful. Jen do you want to follow up with something?

[00:43:49] Jen: I was just going to say we’re getting a lot of really positive responses from the chatbox. So thank you. And thank you for that, Kristen, those really specific examples, I think are a great jumping off point.

[00:44:01]When, as Carmen pointed out in the chat box, we’re talking about these big feelings and these big topics. And so starting with concrete examples, I think go a long way. And so the next question that we have up is, the person who asked it says that they are curious as to the panel’s thoughts regarding how to work towards racial justice,  just being a part of the general consciousness. And I think that sort of touches on what you were talking about making art, reading books with younger kids, and if they are raised around that, but can you speak a little bit more towards, how we work towards racial justice just being a part of what we know and what we think?

[00:44:42] Dr. Carothers: I like when Seth said we call things what they are, we use the terms. And so we don’t skirt around topics and try to make it palatable for people’s like emotional experience. But we say there is such a thing called racism and racism is when people are treated unfairly or they’re judged based on their appearance.

[00:45:02] And for, specifically for black people in this country that has been a major issue. And so one of the things that I’ve noticed, as an adult, is like many corporations are coming through with these messages. We support black lives matter.

[00:45:15] You know, we’re getting bombarded with those emails and kids may even be getting messages from their schools, or parents may be getting messages from schools saying we want to have these conversations about race. I think if we really want to push things forward, it’s time to engage in action. We have to do some things differently. And so it’s nice of us to talk about it and to go to the marches, but now what are we going to commit to doing it? So like from a corporate side, can a corporation commit to actively looking at their hiring and retention practices and trying to increase their hiring and then not just increase the numbers of faces they have, but the practices they put into place to make those people, really a part of the organization.

[00:45:58] When it comes to schools. I think one of the things is going to have to be, we need to take Black History Month out of February and make it a true part of our curriculum. And it can go, it can weave its way into all of our courses. Okay. It’s given me in our science classes, in our reading, in our art classes in our PE. There’s always a way to make sure that the information that’s presented to kids is not presented from one point of view.

[00:46:20] And what’s happened is most of that information is presented from the Western worldview, white United States of America. And then parents who are parents of color, have to educate themselves, their kids outside of school. So having some of those books or materials available that represent a wide range of cultures.

[00:46:39] When we are doing a science experiment, talking about people who were, who made advances in sciences and mathematics and how that relates to race and culture is going to be really important. So that’s, I know a big picture idea, but I think now it’s time to say, Hey, this is not just something that we do Juneteenth or Black History Month, but it’s in our reading curriculum and our science curriculum and our math language arts, we can incorporate aspects of culture.

[00:47:07] Dr. Shaffer: And related to that, I like what Kristin, what you said that you’re bringing in, you know, black culture and literacy into your home by reading books to your son. And that can serve, it could as a bridge between what’s happening in school, while we’re trying to work toward weaving in some of the things you mentioned more into the everyday curriculum, if you will, or year round curriculum.

[00:47:29]But also your, I don’t know if you want to call it supplementing, but you’re instilling values in your son. You’re teaching him about culture and history and things like that. And that’s something that I think related to that question that as parents, you want to kind of continue to do, take it upon yourself. And when your child, and also I think from a very young age, even like, you know, three-ish or whatever, when they start talking, encourage asking questions. And not just accepting things necessarily for what they are.

[00:47:58] And I’m not, I’m not alluding to like kind of noncompliance or questioning, you know, with like in school with your teacher, like you should listen. Right? I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about more curiosity. And when your child or children are asking questions about what they’re hearing in school, what they’re seeing in TV, what they read in a book. If you don’t know the answer, that’s okay. That’s okay to say to your child, you know what,  that’s a good question. Let’s do some research together and figure that out together. Right, because then you’re still reinforcing asking a question and you’re also not modeling, like trying to skirt something or, you know, and if it makes you uncomfortable, let that feeling come out. You’re actually, you know, modeling that sometimes adults don’t have all the answers, but we can work together to figure it out. So you’re also modeling, like for your child, how to take it upon him or herself to be proactive about getting some answers and some information about things that they’re curious about.

[00:48:53] Dr. Carothers: Yeah, I love the encouraging curiosity. And not misinterpreting curiosity and questioning as defiance.

[00:49:00] Dr. Shaffer: Yes

[00:49:01] Dr. Carothers: Is curiosity, and sometimes we may not have time to address it, but we can always say, like Seth said, I don’t have the answer right now, but we can come back, we can do some research together and we can figure it out together.

[00:49:14] Jen: I love that. And talking about how we continue to model that Seth, you started on this, again, you’re ahead of the game.

[00:49:22] But we did have one comment that said, from Merida Draughty in the chat box, using art was the only way that my family was able to get an opening into the mind of my autistic niece. She was much more able to draw what she was thinking versus verbalizing her feelings. And I think that that applies across the board and Aselin, feel free to jump back in if you have thoughts. But what are some ways that you all have to encourage kids to share in their emotional process when they are starting to process a lot of these feelings?

[00:49:55] Dr. Shaffer: Aselin did you want to?

[00:49:56] Aselin: Yeah. So one thing that we do in our classes, and all of our art journaling classes, especially at the end is that there’s always time for reflection. And, it’s with the family classes, surprisingly, we haven’t had any kids who were shy about sharing their experiences. [chuckles] They were like, because they were so enthralled about what they created, that they were willing to actually share and start those conversations.

[00:50:20]And so like allowing them and giving them that space to do that, became helpful. And it became helpful to parents actually, when they’re creating together as a family, those conversations that arise. So it helped kind of build those communication skills between parents and kids. So it kind of broke down those barriers.

[00:50:36] But I would also say like, I worked with plenty of autistic children as well. And, who possessed some amazing artistic talents. It took a while to get to kind of figure out like what their thing was. Like, I had a student who one day he brought in dinosaurs that he made out of aluminum foil and I was like, Oh, perfect.

[00:50:53] I can get you into clay. And it was just like, it was just, he was just stuck on that for that semester. And that was completely fine, but that was the only way, that was once I found that way in, it was just like, you know, it was just easy from there.

[00:51:06] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah. I love that aluminum foil example. And this is a great question, which is it, it underscores the point that there’s many different modes of communication. Right through art, through music, through words, through a combination of all the above. I work with a lot of kids who have autism, who are on the spectrum as well, and trying to figure out what mode of communication they’re most comfortable with and familiar with, you can work with that.

[00:51:32] And then I like what you said Aselin and kind of, you kind of expand it, right, like you said, with that child or person you expanded the tin foil into clay. And similarly, you can do that with music. You know, like songs, lyrics, right, there’s all these different connections that you can take with that too. So I love that question and that, or that comment. Kristen, did you want to…?

[00:51:53] Dr. Carothers: No, I think that was beautiful. Beautiful explanation of like taking something like really concrete that a kid is like kind of focused on. And expanding it into something broader. And I think it’s also helpful for a parent to see you do that. So the parent of that child might have thought, okay, foil is the only thing he’ll use, but then you get to see, Hey, here’s another medium that he will respond to and he can, and can be very productive for him.

[00:52:20] Dr. Shaffer: And that can, that can be done through like, I’m a huge storytelling person. I love storytelling. And particularly for children that speaking of emotional expression and expressing ideas and promoting curiosity, that is such a great way to promote that. So, going back to my son here, he does a lot of comics.  And so he’ll come up, you know, have word bubbles. He’ll have thought bubbles, you know, getting six and a half and you can like tell stories with your child and weave in lots of concepts and ideas. Whether it’s about, you know, the uprising right now, or whether it’s about something that happened in school or whether it’s about that earlier question about big feelings and anger and things like that. And you can kind of pepper that into the story that you, that you create with your child.

[00:53:06] Aselin: Comics are great way. So it kind of gets to some of those deeper subjects as well.

[00:53:11] Jen: Yeah, absolutely. Well on that note, we are going to wrap up today’s webinars. So thank you. Thank you to our three panelists, very, very much, for coming back again and Aselin, thank you for being here.

[00:53:26] We do have some information up on the screen, more resources, all of this will be sent out to all participants after this. So just keep an eye out for that. Please connect with us online. We’ve sent out those links in the chat box, and they’ll be sent out afterwards as well.

[00:53:43]We are off for next week with the holiday weekend coming up, but we will be back July 9th, with Motor City STEAM, for Full STEAM Ahead to Summer. So please join us for that. Please take our survey and thank you again for everything. Hopefully we’ll see you back in two weeks.


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