Engaging Students with Behavioral Challenges through the Arts
A sculpture of a lamb made out of white plaster strips on an armature stands partially made on a brown tabletop, its head the most developed part with an eye and ears facing downward. Its back body and legs, stretched out as if the lamb were moving deliberately, show bits of armature and untucked strips of plaster.
VSA Vermont and the HowardCenter began collaboration in 2014 to bring an integrated arts model to the Baird School, an independent licensed alternative education environment for children ages 6-14. Using the Arts Integration model, VSA Vermont teaching-artist Lisa Condino met with Baird School teachers and administrators to integrate visual arts and Universal Design for Learning concepts into their lessons so that art became part of the learning process across subjects like reading, writing, math, social studies, and science.
“It’s cross curriculum. It’s showing everyone what they can do across curriculum with an arts integrated approach. It’s not just reading and writing. It’s social studies and science.”
A Baird School educator
Based on the success of this work, VSA Vermont staff are partnering with faculty and administrators at the Baird School to develop a training model for use in classrooms at both public and independent schools. The training will provide community artists with the skills to collaborate with teachers in engaging students with severe emotional and behavioral challenges to positively affect confidence, social skills, and the ability to remain engaged in the classroom. This training will be piloted in the fall of 2016. VSA Vermont is also gathering information from schools and arts organizations to better understand how severe emotional and behavioral challenges impact arts and education experiences.
Testimonials from Baird
Photo of two hands, palms facing out, covered with swirls of thick white wet plaster. The hands are held up over a blue board on which you can see additional swirls of plaster.
“It gives each of those kids something they can be successful at. And you can’t help but be impacted by them being successful, seeing what that success looks like, wanting to be part of that success moving forward. So that changed how I viewed some of the students.”
“Our staff gets to experience a timeframe when she’s in there that they don’t see those behaviors where kids want to leave class, the extreme behaviors. You see smiles, and if you don’t see smiles you see concentration. It’s that sweet spot in a classroom. That’s what you want.”
“I’d look at that time and be like: No escalated children for forty minutes.”
“It may seem almost unrealistic for us to say this, but I’d say 100 percent of the students were impacted positively. Every child. We do have data that children were not leaving the classroom for behavior reasons or differences.”
Lisa Condino: a woman with a freckled face framed by loosely curling brown hair and a red scarf smiles in a beam of sunlight
“Traditional teaching methods haven’t always provided the opportunity for reluctant learners to shine. My process of teaching allows them to own what they make and really show how smart, creative, intelligent and clever they are. This incredible population of kids has a tremendous amount to say and I’m fortunate that my teaching process, using art, has opened doors for their voice to shine and be heard. It’s been a joy to collaborate and grow along with the community.”
Lisa Condino, VSA Vermont Teaching-artist
For more information contact program coordinator Heidi Swevens by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1.802.238.5170.
Logo for the Howard Center, with text “Help is here”.
Over the past two years, Arts to Smarts has been supported by:
- Fountain Fund, an advised fund of the Vermont Community Foundation
- Jane’s Trust
- Maslow Family Foundation
- Vermont Arts Council – National Endowment for the Arts
The Kennedy Center VSA logo. With text: “This program is provided under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 2016.”