EXA Creates Research Study in Collaboration with Glide CommunityPosted on May 23 2013

By Kasey Varga

This past fall, EXA core faculty Denise Boston and EXA program chair, Shoshana Simons decided to take advantage of a great opportunity to observe the impact of the expressive arts on social and emotional learning in children, drawing on their relationship with the children of Glide's Family, Youth and Childcare Program. "We know that intentional work around helping children find a better sense of how to navigate socially, is essential." Denise explains, "Social and emotional learning helps them to develop a good foundation for monitoring their behavior, managing their emotions, and relating appropriately with others."

The EXA department has been offering their students opportunities for pre-practicum with Glide for the past three years, but now students are working intentionally with first and second grade children and will be tracking them for three years. The study will involve the use of the BERS II Instrument, a forty-two question survey that the school teachers will fill out, based on their observations. Twenty-three surveys are being filled out this year, and the surveys will be administered again in three years to assess any transformation in the children's development.

In the meantime, EXA students are visiting the Glide children weekly and facilitating arts-based exercises to help them become more aware of their social and emotional worlds. Once the data from the surveys is compiled, EXA students will be guided toward helping the children grow emotionally, in the ways that are most needed.

In addition, Denise will be working with staff of the Family, Youth and Childcare center to help them become more aware of their behavior and relate to the children in an even more respectful way. "It's so many different levels of development" Denise explains, "our student's development, the development of the staff, and the development of our children at Glide. Three layers. And ultimately, we would like to see how the arts have impacted the social and emotional development of the center, the teachers, the community, and eventually the parents."

Given the shortage of research in the area of expressive arts and mental health, the EXA department hopes to publish the study. Denise explains that social and emotional learning is cutting edge in our current school system. It helps lower the frequency of bullying and restore justice in the schools that utilize it. The gap, however is that the curricula being used to teach it don't include the arts!

EXA hopes to offer a valuable, intermodal arts-based approach to social and emotional learning for children while providing it's students with "a chance to really see how arts can be utilized in a healing way when you have a real strategic intention." Stay tuned!

Photo Credit: EXA Banner Photos by LissaIvy Tiegel

Kasey Varga Headshot

Kasey Varga is the Alumni Liaison and the Online Communications Manager for the Expressive Arts Therapy Program. She also has a private psychotherapy practice in San Francisco where she specializes in romantic relationship.



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