Social Emotional Learning

The arts touch minds and hearts. By engaging in art-making experiences, the arts build skills in not only artistic expression but also supports health and well-being. The chart below lists the five key areas of social-emotional learning (SEL) and some of the skills which lie within each area.


Using the power of the arts when addressing social and emotional needs of students can help all participants reach their goals.

Source: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning


The standards for Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) define four artistic processes: creating; performing, which also includes presenting, and producing; responding; and connecting.


As students create art, they deepen their awareness of self and understanding of their own feelings, and manage or organize thoughts and feelings to engage in self-expression and communication as they create art. For many of the performing arts, the art is created in time and space by an ensemble, and without problem-solving, cooperation and teamwork, that art could not exist. Throughout the creative process artists analyze situations, set goals, experience setbacks which build resiliency and self-motivation. When students experience the success in attaining goals, it leads to a greater sense of self-confidence.


Preparing to share their work with others addresses issues of self-confidence and requires students to engage in empathy as they consider the point of view of potential audiences, Creating and presenting works of art builds resiliency and requires the emotional control and stress management in high-pressure situations and dealing with setbacks.


Responding and connecting increases self-awareness and empathy students make connections between themselves and art, and builds communication skills as they learn to express their response. As students make connections to artistic expressions which reflect other life experiences, time periods, and cultures they discover differences, builds empathy, which helps develops an appreciation for diversity and respect for others. Being involved in activities of response also builds skills in accepting feedback constructively, which involves finely developed listening skills and potentially areas of conflict resolution as well. It hones communication skills as opportunities to give insightful feedback in respectful and constructive ways are explored. These are all SEL skills that are implicit in VPA success.


In an article from the Education Commission of the States, author Mary Dell’Erba explore the connection between arts education and student wellness. The article outlines the benefits of involving the arts, arts educators and other arts professionals in helping students and communities recover and to promote mental health and well-being.

>view article here

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Harlan Brownlee and Daniel Hellman wrote an article for submission in the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals magazine - December 2020 which underscores the value of purposeful utilization of the arts to help meet social-emotional needs of students.

>view the article here