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  • Liz DeLise, Marilyn Rodriguez, & Hope Mead

Conflict Resolution Through Art

"A"'s bedazzled panda sculpture created during summer camp at Women Against Abuse

We had a great summer program at Women Against Abuse (WAA)* this summer! Liz led the music portion, where the group focused on being a leader and follower in the context of an ensemble, and how this applies to times in our lives where we have to do the same. Marilyn led the art portion where we made recycled animal creations, using repurposed every-day materials to create one-of-a-kind creatures.

Over the course of our five groups, we observed great transformation in "A" (F, black, 7yo).

On the second day during our music activity, "A" was very upset that she couldn't play one of the large drums the entire time. The goal was for every child to have a turn with each instrument at least once, which was achieved by passing the instruments to the right when a new conductor began leading the group. She began to cry and refused to play any of the other instruments. Both Hope and Liz intervened and explained that everyone would get a turn with the drum, and that she had already had her turn. She stayed quiet and upset for another 5 minutes, but eventually, another large drum was passed to her. This, as well as getting to conduct the group, brought her out of her sadness and she was very engaged again.

During the 3rd week "A" had a disagreement with her older sister, "M," in which "A" told her to "shut up." Liz asked "A" to step outside with one of the teachers and she was upset that her sister didn't also have to leave. Very calmly, "M" said that "A" was right, and that she would leave too. When one of the WAA staff said that the sisters shouldn't be together, Liz said, "It's alright--I'm going to trust that they can do it." Sure enough, they were able to sit outside for a few minutes without continuing to argue.

Later that day in music, it came time to share our skills with an accompanied rhythm. "A" raised her hand and instead began to sing. The room grew quiet and slowly, we started to accompany her on our instruments. This went on for a few minutes until she came to the end of her song. There was clapping and gasps of appreciation. This was a profoundly transformative moment for the entire group--half of the group spoke blessings to "A" and affirmed her earlier "I can" statement: "I can sing!"

On our last day of group, during art-making, "A" was so excited to bedazzle her panda. "K" (F, black, 8yo) was new to the group and hadn’t made a project. Seeing this, "A" allowed "K" to help her finish her panda. "A" gathered as many supplies as she could, adding feathers and gems and ribbons and pom-poms--she wanted to add everything! "A" and "K" had a few conflicts about what materials should go where, but they were able to work through it on their own and compromise. Marilyn and Hope offered to help "A" find a balance of adding materials and leaving space, but "A" felt strongly about adding as much decoration as possible. When Liz came from the music room to see the finished projected, "A" covered hers and wanted it to be the "grand finale." We could see how proud she was of what she had created. As we were packing up to go, we gave "A" her sister's project to take home because she hadn't been there that day. "A" said, “I’ll give my sister half the stuff I’ve added to my animal so she can bedazzle hers too!"

While "A" continued to need redirection and have conflicts with other students throughout the summer, we watched her find her authentic voice, acquire and apply conflict resolution skills, and put the needs of others before her own.

*Women Against Abuse is an emergency shelter for women and children with several locations in the area.

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