From the Field: Arts & Trauma Teaching Artist Residencies

Through this fall, 44 residencies led by teaching artists trained in trauma-informed practices haven taken place in schools affected–directly or indirectly–by last year’s firestorm. These public school residencies are supported by the Creative Sonoma Recovery Fund.

October 2018

The Creative Sonoma program Using Arts to Address Trauma: 2018 Teaching Artist Residencies began this past spring and has continued into the fall. Over the summer, the residencies also took place at nine local Boys & Girls Club Summer camps. 

The arts have many benefits in a learning environment and ameliorating the effects of trauma is key among them. Visual art, drama, literary arts, movement, and dance offer students and teachers a way to express feelings and emotions and share stories. Eight teaching artists, who received training in trauma-informed practices, have been teaching in the above disciplines using a wide range of activities, most that meet arts integration state standards. 

Teaching artist Sandra Novia, pictured above with a student, recently taught classes at Proctor Terrace Elementary Schools, where students spent six sessions planning and designing their own fairy houses. From a supply of outdoor materials, students used large pieces of bark as their foundation, then fashioned their houses with grass and leaves.

Students considered details that made their houses comfortable and safe. Fairy house features included feather beds of all sizes, hammocks from corn husks, and sitting areas for family and friends made from shells and acorns. Each day, students strategically and happily added items to make their house a home, sometimes including staircases, look-outs, and escape hatches. One student said, “At night I think about what I’m going to add to my house the next day. I can’t wait to get to school to try it.” 

RELATED:  KRCB Radio 91.1 did a story on students at Riebli Elementary, who also constructed fairy houses with Sandra Novia, that aired on October 4, 2018. Listen HERE

At Cesar Chavez Elementary School, teaching artist Christina Klauenburch discussed the feelings and emotions associated with colors with a class of 5th graders. For example, students listed a wide range of what the color red represented to them:  anger, frustration, and fast-moving. Christina suggested to the students that red also shows love and compassion.

She handed back each student’s mask which Christina and the students created the week prior by layering wet plaster strips over each student’s face. Students all looks intrigued and curious as they examined what they look like to others. The masks acted like a strange kind of mirror to themselves. When asked if their mask looked like them, most said yes, but one student exclaimed, “No, this doesn’t look like me.” The students at his table looked at him, then at the mask, and smilingly said, “Yes, it does!”

Christina discussed how we all wear masks, both figuratively and literally, to hide or change how we are perceived by others. In times of hardship, for example, we wear a figurative mask to be strong for our family or friends. Students then chose four colors they wanted to represent them on the outside and began painting their masks. The last session of the residency included writing words or adding pictures that represents their inner selves to the inside of their mask.

The free residencies, supported by donors and grants to the Creative Sonoma Recovery Fund, were available to any Sonoma County TK-12 public school. 

Sonoma County teaching artists working in this program are:

  • Robert Acevedo
  • Brian Glenn Bryson
  • Jackie Hallerberg
  • Christina Klauenburch
  • Dallas Munger
  • Sandra Novia
  • Bridget Palmer
  • Joy Thomas