Individual Presentation

First Presenter's Institution

Crosswalk Ministries USA, Inc

Second Presenter's Institution


Third Presenter's Institution


Fourth Presenter's Institution


Fifth Presenter's Institution



Session 6 (Ballroom E)

Strand #1

Social & Emotional Skills

Strand #2

Mental & Physical Health


The focus of this proposal is to demonstrate creative tools that educators and youth development professionals can add to their SEL toolbelts along with the research that underpins this approach. The presentation, discussion, and hands-on activities in this workshop center on using creativity as a means toward deeper self-awareness, greater social awareness, and enhanced relationship skills, three of CASEL’s five SEL core competencies. The overlap between SEL and mental health is undeniable under a broad definition that includes “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being” ( Furthermore, it is widely accepted that effective SEL programs also include promoting increased competencies of social and emotional skills among the adults who are serving the youth. Since the adults in this workshop will be experiencing the activities for themselves, they will be more fully equipped to facilitate them in their own programs as they continue to serve the youth and promote SEL for their adult cohorts as well.

Brief Program Description

Explore the power of art to give tweens and teens a vehicle for healthy self-expression and life skills that can take them from risk to resilience. Interact and connect in this hands-on session that demonstrates engaging activities to create a sense of community within groups. Exercise your creativity and leave with unique artwork and a written guide to facilitate the activities in your programs.


This workshop is directed toward participants with experience and/or interest in using creative exploration and therapeutic self-discovery to strengthen social-emotional learning in enrichment or out-of-school programs with adolescents. Built on a mindsets model rather than a behavior modification model, the workshop will offer practical strategies for building authentic relationships that foster a sense of community and an atmosphere of trust within the group using art and other creative team-building activities. The objectives of the workshop are as follows:

Participants will

  • Explore the power of the arts as a vehicle for healthy self-expression.
  • Enhance proficiency to create a sense of belonging through team-building activities.
  • Experience the creation of artwork and build skills to elicit therapeutic insight.
  • Embrace tools to adapt and implement creative activities in their own programs.

The main ideas to be covered are a) the importance of connection and belonging; b) using visual art therapeutically to get teens and tweens talking; c) ways to motivate and engage youth at risk in the process of self-discovery; and d) the value of self-reflection to promote mental health. The session will employ a combination of research presentation, large and small group activities, facilitated discussion, a guided art project, and a time for self-reflection. The content of the workshop is applicable for all middle and high school programs and may be adapted for older elementary as well. Because participants will not only receive a written guide for each of the activities but also engage in the activities themselves throughout the session, they will leave feeling fully equipped for implementing the activities in their own programs should they choose to do so.


In the fall of 2015, a research project was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation to document what is known about leading programs in the field of Social-Emotional Learning. After a draft report was submitted in February, 2016, Dr. Stephanie M. Jones and her team received further funding to adapt their findings into a public report released March, 2017, that allows practitioners to make informed decisions regarding SEL programs in their schools or OST programs. In the report the researchers identify 3 domains of SEL: cognitve regulation, emotional processes, and social/interpersonal skills. This workshop proposal centers around the latter two. Emotional processes include awareness and expression of emotion and empathy for others (addressed in the small group discussion and the art project). Social/interpersonal skills includes prosocial behavior such as a sense of community, cooperation, and belonging (experienced during the connections and team-building exercises). Since SEL programs have been shown to be more effective when adults model the skills, this workshop will allow adults serving youth the opportunity to practice the skills and to assess their own social-emotional compentency.

The Wallace Foundation Report was specifically focused on SEL programs for elementary level students; however, of the 25 programs evaluated, eight of them also offered curriculum through grade twelve. David Yeager, Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at UT Austin, contends in his article “Social-Emotional Learning Programs for Adolescents” that we can’t rely on revamped elementary-level SEL programs for adolescents. When SEL programs offer teens a way to feel status and respect, then and only then will they internalize the skills and apply them in the real world (, spring, 2017, p 33). Teens are navigating new stress at school, new intense emotions due to puberty, and a new feeling of independence all at the same time. SEL can be a lifeline to help them navigate successfully. Unfortunately, there are few SEL programs designed specifically for teenagers.

The CDC reports that approximately 4.4 million children ages 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety and 1.9 million with depression, and the numbers continue to rise. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of 13-17 year-olds found that 70% of teens think anxiety and depression are major problems for their peers. Art has been shown to increase social interaction and to reduce anxiety and depression. In practicing art, students have space to make a mistake without putting their status on the line. Process not product is the key to clearing the mind of negativity and stress reduction.“The arts can have a profound impact on the social-emotional health of students” (Michelle Simmons,, Feb 2019).

The word “educate” literally means “to draw out,” yet a large percentage of our educational strategies and methods continue to focus on pouring knowledge into students. The core of SEL must be facilitated, not taught. It must be an inside-out approach rather than outside-in (Afterschool Alliance, “In the Field,” May, 2019). Teens are not likely to acknowledge their feelings or express what is going on inside them to adults without some medium to draw that out of them. Art intrinsically does just that and creates a safe space to share with adults with whom they have adequate relationship equity.

Among the 17 best instructional practices for developing SEL skills, The Wallace Foundation Report includes the following (pp 19-20):

  • Art/Creative projects
  • Drawing
  • Skills practice
  • Discussion
  • Role-Play
  • Games
  • Kinesthetic activities

Yet of the 25 programs evaluated, only one used art/creative projects or drawing significantly, three used games, five used role-play, and four used skills practice. An astounding 19 of the 25 used discussion more than 50% of the time. Ten of the programs did not use art/creative projects at all, and of the remaining 15, seven used art in 2% or less of their activities. Clearly the world of Social-Emotional Learning is neglecting some valuable tools—tools that this workshop will explore in order to equip adults serving youth, especially adolescents, in some creative ways to use them. The activities in the workshop are well-aligned with SEL theory and practice, may be widely implemented, and use materials that are easily accessible.

Biographical Sketch

Gina Moore, LMSW: Having spent 24 years directing a successful high school theatre program, Gina Moore chose to leave the traditional education arena in 2007 to focus full-time on curriculum writing and program development for ARTreach 180, a therapeutic after-school arts program originally focused on youth at risk and juvenile offenders. Throughout her career in education, social work, and expressive therapy, Gina has seen firsthand the effectiveness of the arts in guiding young people to cope with difficult emotions, process pain, and resolve conflicts appropriately. With the recent increased focus on social-emotional learning in schools, she remains committed to training other educators and youth development professionals how to implement creative strategies for navigating adolescents from risk to resilience.

Keyword Descriptors

SEL, art therapy, mindset model, team building, community, belonging, social-emotional learning, mental health

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-10-2020 1:00 PM

End Date

3-10-2020 2:15 PM


Mar 10th, 1:00 PM Mar 10th, 2:15 PM

Get Teens Talking: a hands-on approach to SEL through the arts

Session 6 (Ballroom E)

Explore the power of art to give tweens and teens a vehicle for healthy self-expression and life skills that can take them from risk to resilience. Interact and connect in this hands-on session that demonstrates engaging activities to create a sense of community within groups. Exercise your creativity and leave with unique artwork and a written guide to facilitate the activities in your programs.