The Expressive Arts Program, created three decades ago by Elyse Jacobs, has helped children learn to identify their feelings and to express themselves through art and puppet play. The program allows children to work with a wide variety of artistic materials as a tool for “open-ended” artistic expression, problem solving, social skills and emotional intelligence. Expressive Arts is a unique and vital part of the Pacific Primary experience.  The program provides bi-weekly experiences for small groups of children to visit the program and make art and play with puppets.  The specialists scaffold the children’s work and help each child reach the next level of independent creativity.  Children use tape, beads, ribbon, colored wire, fabric, and an endless variety of other “found materials and loose parts” to create art. Elyse is celebrating 30 years as our Expressive Arts Specialist and is now at the Orange Sun School.

The Expressive Arts Program originated as a peace-education program that used puppets to help children learn basic social and emotional skills. This focus remains a core concept of the program, as do the puppets. Several puppets, including Turtle and SuperSeaweed, have nurtured generations of Pacific Primary students.  Teachers frequently use puppets to explore difficult social issues that inevitably arise during the school year. These issues include making and maintaining friendships, entering play, inclusion and exclusion, fears and anxieties, appreciation of differences, and personal loss.

You can watch a brief video of the Expressive Arts program in action by clicking on Super Seaweed. You will see children in the Gray Whale room during a typical morning “circle time” with Elyse Jacobs, and puppets Turtle, and SuperSeaweed. During a previous “Turtle Circle,” several children expressed their fear of SuperSeaweed’s witch-like pointy nose and chin. This led to a discussion of how differences can sometimes feel scary at first.

In this clip, Elyse starts with Turtle, but the children quickly ask to see SuperSeaweed. They comment that her nose is still pointy, and some still find it scary. Determining that the level of fear is actually quite low, Elyse begins a game that brings the puppet into closer contact with the children. This exercise offers the children an opportunity to move beyond their fears.

Watch as one child, who at first says that SuperSeaweed is scary, decides that he wants to try giving her a hug.

(Technical note: you may need to click on the “play” button twice to start the video. If the video does not play, check to see whether your browser is blocking it. Internet Explorer users will usually need to allow “ActiveX” content. Typically, the browser will display a yellow bar up near the browser menus asking you to click there to allow ActiveX content to play.)

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