MA IN ART EDUCATION WITH AN EMPHASIS IN SPECIAL POPULATIONS
(SHE / HER / HERS)
THESIS: TRAUMA-INFORMED APPROACHES IN THE ART ROOM TO PROMOTE EMPOWERMENT IN STUDENTS WITH EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS
Given that urban art rooms contain students who have been exposed to trauma, and that Overstreet (2011) suggests that urban youth are at a higher risk for being exposed to chronic trauma and developing emotional, behavioral, and academic difficulties, how might trauma-informed approaches foster empowerment in a K-2 urban art room?
The purpose of this study was to determine how trauma-informed approaches in an urban elementary school art room can foster empowerment in students who have been exposed to trauma and have developed Emotional and/or Behavioral Disorders. I implemented a pedagogy focused on promoting empowerment through art making, then collected data on the development of students’ inner-strengths and resilience. The study focused on students in Kindergarten through second grade, who were chosen based on their behaviors, lack of research on that age group, and the mainstreaming that occurs in classrooms during those years. Data was collected through observations, interviews, self-esteem surveys, and artwork. Lessons were created to enhance students’ sense of empowerment and focus on future goals. Mindfulness strategies were implemented to provide coping skills and a person-centered approach to management was utilized to enhance empowerment through responsibility. These interventions were combined into a trauma-informed approach, which I examined to determine the effectiveness of decreasing re-traumatization, reducing behavior episodes, and increasing students’ sense of empowerment.
Establishing a safe environment and providing space for choice were critical factors of promoting empowerment. Lessons with the theme of identity and opportunities for goal setting and reflection enhanced students’ senses of self, sensory tools were able to support students to calm down and prevent re-traumatization, student jobs were a factor in promoting confidence to stand up in front of their peers, and mindful breathing was able to become a coping strategy with consistent use. Data varied slightly for each participant, and it is difficult to determine the lasting impact because of school closures; however, conclusions can be drawn that empowerment levels grew or remained consistent throughout the study.
Maeve Rooney is currently an art teacher at Mitchell Elementary in southwest Philadelphia. She just completed her MA in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations at Moore College of Art & Design. Her Master’s thesis documented a trauma-informed approach in the art room to promote empowerment with students who have emotional and behavioral disorders. She received her BS in Art Education from Tyler School of Art. Maeve’s current artwork explores the juxtaposition of violence and calmness in water through painting. Personal memories of water’s violence are reconciled with water’s peace through the meditative ritual of painting.