A recent UK report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, titled Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, July 2017, states that ‘participatory arts have the potential to enhance educational outcomes across whole schools’ and ‘participatory arts and arts therapies enhance social, emotional and behavioural development in young people.’ We believe that the positive outcomes we have witnessed in our projects align well with this important and comprehensive report. Thus, the approach we are focussing on is essentially theme-based, cross-disciplinary and participatory, and includes:
Problem-solving, improvisation, devising solutions and growing resilience
‘Mental toughness is essentially developing life skills’ (Chase, cited in Edwards, 2017). Resilience is about mental toughness, which ‘defines your ability to perform under stress or pressure no matter what the circumstances’ (Lyons, cited in Edwards, 2017). Our approach focusses on problem-solving projects with school-aged children by encouraging artistic and improvisatory processes that are based on free play, participation and making. In this way solutions are discovered through action. Art and design processes and outcomes will be shared and recognised, by using various platforms and media including installations, exhibitions and the internet, to stimulate narrative processes and empowerment.
Developing and applying resources, creative cognitive awareness and empowerment
Recognising, developing and applying resources not only refer to skills development and knowledge transferral and application, but it also refers to the development of life skills, emotional intelligence and mental toughness. The importance of meta cognitive awareness in developing youth allow them to empower themselves and address the four Cs of commitment, challenge, confidence and control (Lyons, cited in Edwards, 2017). Through commitment to problem solving and accepting challenges students grow their confidence through controlling and applying their practical, creative and life skills.
Knowing-in-action and growing-in-action
The importance of knowing-in-action and reflection-in-action were first discussed by Donald Shon (1983; 2001), recognising that ‘the problem and our understanding of it changes as we tackle it’ (Kay, 2011). Children will know by doing. Participation yields knowing-in-action, and reflection-in-action yields growing-in-action. Learning through multidisciplinary, artistic and design approaches, in which improvisatory processes are encouraged, stimulates a cycle of growing, learning, reflection and adapting.