Creative Safe Spaces for Children 

Bogota, Columbia Aug. 1-14, 2012.   In this interactive training for teachers and community workers, students learned how to build resilience and hope in children through art-making. The course taught basic principles of art-making as metaphor for learning life lessons, provided structure in the classroom, developed lessons based on learning goals, and guided children toward a hopeful future. Emphasis was on recognizing trauma and responding appropriately to the child’s need.  View a copy of the Spanish student book.

A catalytic art camp for children followed the training with Colombian teachers participating in the camp.

This course is the second of the three part series Community Arts for Children. Goals of the training are:
  1. Creating safe spaces for children and the role of the arts in child development. 
  2. Understanding the importance of ritual and how the arts can help children learn. 
  3. Creating metaphors and fostering resilience in children. 
  4. Exploring basic elements included in programing for children. 

Basic Training Concepts

Spaces for children should be designed to meet their universal needs of love, affirmation, meaningful productivity, purpose, and belonging. They should be physically and emotionally safe spaces where children feel free to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of ridicule. Spaces for children should also be sacred so that when children enter they cross a threshold from the ordinary to the extraordinary world. These spaces need to be creative with lots of color, sound, and things to touch.

Creative safe spaces and art-making experiences can encourage healthy and holistic child development. Art-making experiences promote emotional, intellectual, physical, social, creative, and spiritual growth.

Rituals help create emotionally safe, child-friendly spaces. Rituals define a threshold for a community space, build community, create safety, promote healing, and teach values. Child-safe activity rituals include a greeting, a beginning ritual, an art making experience, a closing ritual, and a parting. One way to beginning a child-safe activity is with a motto that reminds children of values and boundaries and creates a sense of community.

Arts-integrated learning uses the arts to more effectively teach academic subjects. Children and adults have preferences for learning called multiples intelligences. These include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal and naturalistic. Arts-integrated learning allows children to use all of their multiple intelligences when learning.

Art-making can be a metaphor to teach things other than arts skills like: wisdom, patience, goal-setting, asking for help, and parenting skills. Children can also use metaphors in art to express feelings that are difficult to express verbally. The art-making process can be a metaphor to describe life.

Children are naturally resilience, but poverty, violence, and catastrophe can prevent children from bouncing back from challenging experiences. Arts interventions provide a sense of normalcy, support and encouragement, aesthetic nourishment, and a sense of belonging —all of which foster their resilience to future trauma.

Before starting a program for children, community leaders should decide who the program will serve and learn about this target population. You should also consider who will lead your program and what skills and qualities these individuals should have. Finally you must consider what other programs, organizations, or people are doing similar work so that you can collaborate and learn from their work.

Training is interactive and creative

Artist Training in Bogota with Comunidad Viva.  With 54 participants small groups where used to facilitate learning a name game.

Arts Integration

Group composition of learning.

Arts-intergration teaches both the arts and a non-arts subject

Making tortillos through movement.

Graduation Ceremony and Certificate

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