A Little “Healthy Competition” is Good For You… Building Social Health Communities To Reconnect Schools

By Dr. Steven Moyo


As school communities work to reconnect people and enhance their collective wellbeing as well as the teaching and learning they are engaged in, they should do so with a clear sense of purpose knowing that gathering changes people à la Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.”

To help school communities design with purpose as they gather together again, we might consider applying lessons from other effective practices in our schools and remind leaders of what is needed most right now, which is not an urgent return to “normal.” Instead, school communities should dedicate time and space at the beginning of reopening to gather in groups, large and small, and give people permission to be vulnerable and spend meaningful time in safe spaces. This will help reorient the community.

Expected Impact

Students who participate in the arts and creative practices and experience artwork develop neural pathways to support positive behavior changes. The benefits of the arts happen at any age, including addressing trauma. The transferrable skills acquired in art education enhance skills and knowledge that can inform students’ academic performance. Growing research is highlighting the effect of social and emotional learning on student success, resulting in an increased ability to stay on task, set and achieve goals (short and long term), increase empathy towards others, build and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and understand and process their emotions. With those skills and awareness, there’s a higher possibility of achieving success because students see life differently. The arts foster communication, collaboration, critical thinking skills, creativity, and problem-solving, all of which influence how we learn and what we learn.

Expected outcomes for the school and community:

  • Increased ability to self-regulate and manage emotions
  • Healthy community connections
  • Self-efficacy (believing in one’s ability to effect change)
  • Resilience
  • Safe and effective communication for students and adults
  • Maximized student engagement and attendance
  • Improved individual self-regulation of emotional responses
  • Increased empathy
  • Improved positive peer-to-peer and student-to-instructor interactions

Adopt & Adapt

The school and inner-City Arts would pursue funding to implement the program. Funding will allow for staffing and all resources needed for execution. Program coordinators would support all planning and logistics. Buy-in would happen through school community meetings with administrators, parent groups, mental health experts, credentialed teaching staff/administrators, and professional teaching artists at Inner-City Arts. The whole school community would be provided with research supporting the positive effects of the arts as a tool for transformation and healing. The total estimated cost of service, not including transportation to the Inner-City Arts campus is $285,000 for two years of service as outlined above.

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