Thursday, December 19, 2013

Finding a Sense of Belonging

The welcome song on December 1st was extra special. Why? Two children, sisters, newly arrived from Nepal just a week prior, joined the Bhutanese refugee children’s art group. The regular attending children were on their best behavior, sitting taller than normal, singing louder and glancing at the sisters to see if they were enjoying themselves. The words of the welcome song – "Hello, Hello, so happy to see you; Hello, Hello, how do you do? Hello, hello, my name is.." – took on new meaning this time. One of the children took on the responsibility of translating for the new girls. The others did their part in acclimating the sisters to the rituals, rules and values of the group. The children danced, sang and they made mud sculptures of their choice illustrating the continuing metaphor of constant change and growth in life. This metaphor started with the lesson of the life cycle and migration of Monarch butterflies to Mexico (see previous post 'Skulls made of Sugar')

At the end of group, the sisters hung around, showing the artists Nepali music videos, sharing their interests and culture. One of the sisters continued to draw long after the group had ended while the other sister exchanged handmade bracelets with another child. They asked for paper to take home so they could continue drawing in preparation for the next group.

The BuildaBridge Classroom model helped the regularly attending children welcome and acclimate these newly arrived sisters from Nepal. The boundaries, structure and rituals create a community that these sisters are now a part of, helping them find a sense of belonging here in a new place.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Flight of the Monarchs

During their most recent group, Bhutanese children reviewed what they learned about monarch butterflies migrating from the U.S. to Mexico in late October.  Children worked in pairs to choreograph their interpretation of what the life cycle  of a butterfly and it's migration looks like.  Each pair performed their dance for the group using fabric to mimic wings and capes.  As children performed, the artists pointed out the scientific terms like transformation, caterpillar, cocoon and chrysalis in order to strengthen the group's vocabulary and academic skills.  The group then transitioned into their visual arts activity of creating mud sculptures.  The week prior, children created leaf drawings.  Christine, the visual art therapist, described how mud sculptures when they are dry are slightly more permanent than the leaf drawings, but also will not last forever.  Using these art activities as a metaphor, children were able to reflect on the things in their own lives that were permanent and impermanent.  Christine, Mr. Robert and Julia have consistently incorporated both movement and visual arts into all of the groups because the children respond so well to both. There are attributes and specific values to each art medium, all of which play an important role in helping children externalize the internal without the use of words as they continue to acclimate into U.S. culture.

Two newly arrived refugee children joined this group totaling 11 children in attendance on December 1st. The group taught them the songs, dances and rituals of the BuildaBridge Classroom, welcoming them into the space as if they had been there all along.  A celebration of this first term will occur December 15th and groups will re-start in mid-January.