I was so lucky to sit in on a program that Paint Love artist Amy Myers is developing for her class at Powder Springs Elementary. Powder Springs is a Title I school with an arts integration program. Arts integration is a teaching approach in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. A good example of this is learning math through rhythm and music studies or learning about culture and history through the visual arts like in the American Hero’s Mural Project.
Artfully Made, a curriculum by Amy Myers is written around the theme of self worth. It's goal is to teach young girls that they are wholly lovable, loving and loved.
The first part of the session was spent teaching the girls that what is on the outside changes nothing about what is on the inside. Amy showed the girls a sparkly ring. After the girls all agreed that it was beautiful and valuable, Amy put the ring in a beautiful clay pot. She asked the group, “Is this ring the exact same on the inside? Is it just as valuable and beautiful?” The girls answered, “Yes, of course!”
Next, Amy put the ring in a grocery bag and said, “Now that I’ve put this ring in an old worn out grocery bag, is it any different?” She had the girls go in a circle and say mean things to the ring while it was in the grocery bag. Dirty, old, cheap, yucky—all these words were used to describe the ring. Then Amy asked the girls, “Did this outside packaging and those mean words change anything about the ring inside?”
This was a pivotal moment. I saw some girls struggle with this question. Finally, the group agreed that nothing anyone said about the ring or the bag changed how valuable the ring was on the inside. One girl in particular was mulling this through. I could tell she was working hard on sorting this information out. Once Amy declared the truth about the ring—that it is beautiful and valuable no matter what anyone says about it—the little girl’s face lit up. I saw her make the connection and learn the lesson that I’m still trying to learn: nothing anyone says about you and nothing about your outside appearance takes away from the truth that you are valuable beyond measure.
After this discussion, we did a short yoga flow. This was a super fun yoga class compared to the ones I usually attend. Giggles abounded! I toppled over during one pose and spurred on the giggles even further. Throughout this whole time, Amy was reinforcing the affirmations and truths about our value. At the end of the flow, we layed in the resting pose, savasana. Amy repeated the affirmations and truths about us and gave us the opportunity to let these soak deep into our hearts.
When we woke up from our resting pose, a few of the girls had tears in their eyes. Amy and I both shared a look. This occasionally happens in yoga. The poses really awaken deep feelings and tears are sometimes the result. It’s surprising what yoga can bring up! The tears are a way for those feelings to get out of the body. You’re on the path to healing!
After the yoga, we had a group discussion. Amy asked the girls if they have ever been called a mean name. What was that experience like. Some of the stories the girls shared were so familiar. I think as an adult you imagine your own struggles to be so much bigger than a child’s struggles. But when you get right down to it, they share the same themes: feeling alone, like you don’t belong, like you’re not wanted, like you’re not enough. It’s the same whether you’re in fourth grade or you’re forty years old. A child’s insight is incredible. They can can teach you things in a heartbeat that would otherwise take years to learn. The truth is that you are valuable beyond measure—and nothing can change that.