Page 6 - FIS World June 2021
P. 6

The Power of Art
Processing the present to find hope for the future
What started last August as a short presentation by Elementary School counselor Sabrina Mercer on signs of anxiety to watch for in students during the pandemic, blossomed into a multifaceted art project where students could explore their existence in a time of global turmoil.
The first step on the journey came from an unexpected source. A past FIS teacher, now living in New Zealand, spontaneously sent Ms. Mercer a link to a site with the latest research on educational techniques to help children process trauma and anxiety. Professor Carol Mutch, who is the Education Commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand and lead researcher in disaster response and recovery at the University of Auckland, oversees this important work.
There was not one child without a concrete hope for the future.
Traditionally, disaster response has largely focused on helping young students in school after such things as bush fires, earthquakes, tsunamis or terrorist attacks occur. The New Zealand Educational Association Te Rito Toi, which in the Maori language means “the arts are at the center of all growth,” was created by University of Auckland education professors and arts teachers to respond to the needs of students who have lived through a disaster. They put together a curriculum-based kit of strategies, exercises and activities to help children process through a traumatic event.
If we define the word trauma as a life-changing event, then that is what the Covid-19 pandemic has been to students around the world. Ms. Mercer introduced this concept to her colleagues at FIS, alongside the all-important goal: to help students look ahead, find hope and create a better world. This inspired Katherine Webster, Elementary School Art and Drama teacher, to develop more concrete ideas on how her Grade 5 students could work through their anxieties and find social connectedness using art. Because play, story-telling, journaling and creating things often help children be more in touch with their feelings, Ms. Webster started with these key elements.
The project started with a story, Sarah’s Dream Cloth, about a girl whose dream cloth is torn. Through this the students explored the meaning of dreams and aspirations, but also what a“torn dream”could mean to themselves and to others. Together they discussed how one could mend and lessen the pain of a torn dream, and then designed a class dream cloth for the book’s character to use while hers was being mended. This collaborative effort led to insights on what values the students shared and how these made them a part of both the FIS and a global community.
Although they had a deeper understanding of how they were part of the whole of humanity, each student also nurtured their own individual dreams and aspirations. Here is where the students were introduced to British artist, Antony Gormley, who uses 3D art to explore individuality in relation to the group. One of his most famous works, “Fields of the British Isles,”is made up of 35,000 clay sculptures made by different people. Ms. Webster adopted this idea, asking her students to create small clay sculptures for “Fields of FIS” to express their own personal wish for the world after the pandemic. They came up with 52 worlds for each week of the year: a world of brightness, knowledge, trust, connection, smiles and gratefulness were just a few. “I was surprised by the depth of thought and feeling revealed in the process of creating the sculptures,” Ms. Mercer said.
The art project proved to be an effective way of confronting head on the insecurities of the present. Through it, the students found a means to convey a powerful, individual message that could be seen, heard and understood by others. It was very heartening,” said Ms. Webster. “There was not one child without a concrete hope for the future.”
Vera Thiers
Manager of Marketing and Public Relations
   4 FIS World June 2021

   4   5   6   7   8