Art Xpress: Creativity, Expression, And Social-Emotional Development

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At the elementary school in Back of the Yards where she is stationed, Communities in Schools student supports manager Jessica has channeled her students’ love of drawing as a means of teaching social-emotional learning.

Jessica’s Art Xpress group has proved a resounding success.

Many of the students at Chávez weren’t into sports or other extracurricular activities, but they did love to draw. Thus, Jessica set up Art Xpress with rules based on the key principles of social-emotional learning – cooperation with peers, affirmation of others’ efforts, and willingness to ask questions and ask for help.

The club soon drew as many as 40 students per lunch period.

The students became so engaged that they began working together to hang banners around the school, reinforcing the values of positive thinking to the whole student body. In its second year, as the club expanded further, Jessica also used it to identify students who needed extra social-emotional support by observing how they interacted with others and the content of their artwork.

Meanwhile, some teachers began pushing for more public displays of the students’ artwork. So last June, with the support of community members, Jessica arranged for an art show that drew in the whole community.

Participating students ended the year with a sense of accomplishment that has carried over into the new school year. Art Xpress stands out as an example of the importance of helping students find their passion, tap into that strength, and use it as a springboard for them to succeed.