George Lucas Educational Foundation

Building Confidence and Resilience Through the Arts

By bringing in arts education, this school found a creative way to help heal trauma and encourage a more supportive learning environment.

May 26, 2023

How can schools create a healing environment in their classrooms—with a trauma-informed lens? Students in the small town of Glen Ellen, like many in California, were affected first by wildfires and then by the social isolation of the pandemic. Teachers needed a way to build students’ resilience and self-regulation skills back up. Their solution? Partnering with—and getting training from—local arts organizations, including Kimzin Creative and Sonoma Community Center, to help students learn how to express themselves and collaborate with each other again.

Two years in, Dunbar Elementary School relies on their trauma-informed arts program to boost students’ confidence and release their anxieties. The school brings in local artists to teach lessons that emphasize creativity and self-expression over technique—giving students a brain break and providing a place where they can feel a sense of calm. The program is supported with funds raised by local nonprofit Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. Teachers say that since the program began, classroom engagement has soared.

To see more research on using arts interventions for healing and stress reduction in the classroom, check out the resources below:

Discover more about how art can transform the classroom in Elizabeth Peterson’s article for Edutopia “Encouraging Social and Emotional Learning Through the Arts” and Lori Desautels’s article “Using Art to Help Students Find Their Calm.”

Dunbar Elementary School

Public, Suburban
Grades K-5
Glen Ellen, CA

Editor’s Note: Since this video was published, we have learned that Dunbar Elementary School did not reopen in fall 2023 due to low enrollment. For more context, read this editorial in local newspaper, the Press Democrat.

Share This Story

  • email icon

Filed Under

  • Trauma-Informed Practices
  • Student Engagement
  • Arts
  • K-2 Primary

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
George Lucas Educational Foundation
Edutopia is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.