Art class offers escape and healing for students

American students have experienced a global health crisis, nationwide protests and school closings and restrictions in the past two years. But art classes in schools have helped some students deal with their emotions and struggles.

The teachers used art and social science teach complex subjects such as racism. Students at Sullivan High School in Chicago, for example, wrote poetry and produced pictures on subjects such as imprisonment and slavery during a project based on The New York Times Project 1619.

Art classes such as painting and drawing, as well as music and drama classes, allow students to express themselves. The art or music room can also offer students an escape from the tensions of the school day, educators say.

“I remember students who only felt comfortable in the group room, ”Gary Mayne said. He was speaking to the nonprofit Music for All based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Mayne is a behavioral expert and former music teacher. “And the coolest thing about what we do for a living is asking kids to sit in a room” and express their feelings through music.

A student from Public School 11 chooses art supplies during an art class at High Line Park on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, in New York City. (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

Some experts say art classes offer a way to teach social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning is about finding a way for students to control their emotions, relate to others, and show empathy. Many schools pay great attention to social and emotional learning. This could be because student mental health has become more of a concern in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Arts educators, more than most, see children for various years ”, Maurice Elias Recount Chalk beat, a non-profit news provider. Elias heads the Social, Emotional, and Character Development Lab at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “They build strong relationships and bonds with children. They have one huge influence on their mental health.

Sarah Potpinka teaches eight subjects as the sole art teacher at Putnam High School in Connecticut. When the lessons went live, she asked her photography students to take pictures of how their lives had changed. His drawing and painting students also made pieces in response to the pandemic. Most of his students’ work was “filled with rage“Potpinka told VOA.

A student who saw school as an escape from family life was unable to leave home during the pandemic. Thanks to art, “she was able to express herself”, but it was also a way for her teachers “to see where she was mentally, because I did not often hear about her”.

The student’s unsettling work sparked a discussion that would include mental health experts from the school.

Potpinka said his art classes are often a “decompression time for students.

She said her school system is in a poor part of Connecticut. Many of its students look after younger parents or work part-time to provide their families with extra money.

Potpinka said one of his high school students recently had a child and had a difficult family life even before the pandemic. Potpinka said he was involved in the baby’s life. But he struggles with his homework and risks dropping out because school is no longer important to him.

The student was very interested in tattoo art design. Tattoos are ink images drawn on a person’s skin that are permanent. He asked Potpinka for materials so that he could work on his drawings outside of class.

“He can balance what he’s struggling with academically, with some success in the art room, ”said Potpinka. “It’s nice to see him still working on something that captures him.”

Students at Public School 11 participate in art and science classes at High Line Park on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 in New York City.  (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

Students at Public School 11 participate in art and science classes at High Line Park on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 in New York City. (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

Shawna Longo is a longtime music teacher in New Jersey. She told Music for All that teaching music is a way for students to have fun while exploring their personalities.

She said that in many years her students might not remember the notes of a song. But “they’re going to remember how they felt. And that, for me, is maximum importance.”

I am Dan Novak.

Dan Novak wrote this story for Voice of America. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in this story

social science nm (PL.) fields of study (such as history, language, and literature) that relate to human life and ideas

comfortable adj. not to cause physically unpleasant sensations; produce physical comfort

empathy nm the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions

various adj. more than one

huge adj. very big or big

rage -not. a strong sense of anger that is difficult to control

decompression nm the pressure reduction process; rest and relax

academicallyadv. school or education related

maximum adv. at the highest or highest level


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