Healing through Art with 4th Grade Boys

Art with heart story picture

“When I look at my art, I feel really proud of myself because I learned to take risks and I made things from my heart,” reads a quote on the Draw it Out survey submitted by Washington-state school counselor Alyssa Daniels.

The quote comes from a child in one of the several successful Art with Heart programs Alyssa conducted during the 2014-2015 school year. Art with Heart books and curricula served as the springboard for getting to know her students, encouraging them to open up about the difficult hardships and traumas they were facing.

One group of fourth grade boys facing grief and loss proved just how engaging and helpful Art with Heart programming could be in emotional exploration. Each boy had isolated himself, triggering behavioral issues. Their placement in the group was intentional; they were all in the same class and had a reputation for not getting along with one another.

“To be completely honest,” admitted Alyssa, “starting out that group I was a little nervous because I thought, ‘How am I going to take this group of fourth grade boys who, on the exterior, are really hard and difficult to communicate with, and try to move them to a place where we can realize emotion a little bit more?’”

“The minute I introduced the book to them, it just broke down every barrier,” she said. “As they’re sharing, they’re noticing all these commonalities in their lives. All of them only live with mom, all of them have either had a family member or their father incarcerated. They even had cute commonalities like they all wanted to be a bulldog.”

Alyssa was amazed with the transformation she saw pre- and post-group. She could not get the boys to stop talking—the complete opposite of her expectation. The boys went from “archenemies” to bonded best friends who really understood each other.