As written by Orlando, FL Program Director, Cindy Valentin.
In most social settings, whether it be school, play, work, or with friends, expressing anger or depression is seen as unrestrained, or off-putting behavior. However, feeling these emotions and dealing with these emotions are two different situations. Children who express their anger and anxieties in school or social situations are quickly labeled as troubled or misbehaved. With this curriculum project, we challenged the children to take on their emotions and relive their frustrations through their art projects.
To begin, I asked the children, “When you feel anger, what do you do?” A number of the children responded with, “I throw things,” or, “I break things.” I then asked our group of volunteers the same question. The volunteers responded with: “I clean, I write poetry,” or, “I cool off and walk away.” I wanted the children to hear the volunteer’s various methods of dealing with their emotions and compare those responses with their own. When I asked the children if throwing or breaking things helps them feel better, some children shyly nodded to signal “yes,” and others spoke up and answered, “No.” Then I introduced to them a new way to deal with anger or sadness: Crumple Art. We gave each child a sheet of white paper and asked each one to think of a moment when they felt angry or sad. Then I instructed them to crumble their blank pieces of white paper. The children asked me, “But why? It will look ugly.” I told them the purpose of this activity is to deal with our emotions by crumpling the paper. Although skeptical, they followed my instruction. Some children threw the ball of paper on the floor and stomped on it. Some attempted to crumple the paper as small as possible. Once everyone had crumpled their paper, I instructed the children to open up their crumpled wads of paper. They all shouted, “What!?” I smiled and said, “Now that we’ve dealt with our emotions and made a reaction to this emotion, let’s study our emotions and see if we can make something beautiful out of all of these wrinkles and crooked lines.
I instructed the children to follow the creases with markers and create colorful patterns using various materials. It was incredible to see the children deliberate over their choices of colors and contemplate the patterns they created. Towards the end of the session, I shared, “Remember: when you’re angry or sad, it’s okay to feel these emotions. But if you begin to feel so angry that you want to throw or break something, grab a piece of paper and crumple it. Then create and color!”
We ended with show and tell, and many children discussed how they studied their emotions of anger and sadness. Some children shared that, by using a certain color, it helped them think of positive images and focus on happier thoughts – like grabbing the color blue and creating an ocean with a beach!
Imagination combined with art is powerful. I am proud to be part of the #drawchangefamily and witness the power of art therapy based programming and how it plays a meaningful role in these young children’s lives!
Orlando Program Director