Curriculum

Art in the Garden engages a variety of modules that support youth in holding themselves and others in compassion and helping them to grow in connectedness to themselves, each other, and the earth.


Art in the Garden supports youth knowing— in deep and lasting ways—the interconnectedness of all living beings, that we are all whole and all belong.

At Art in the Garden, youth express themselves through drawing, sculpting, music-making, theater and improvisation, physical movement, and engagement with nature. Interwoven into this trauma-informed, experiential curriculum is the development of the five core Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies: 

1. Self-Awareness

2. Self-Management

3. Social Awareness

4. Relationship Skills

5. Responsible Decision-Making

This curriculum utilizes research from neuroscience that supports that social and emotional learning can change brain structure and function (neuroplasticity), with the aim of developing each child’s resilient nature. As youth engage various weekly themes based on the core SEL competencies, they find that instead of reacting impulsively, they’re more often able to step back and choose how they want to respond, even in difficult situations. Through this emergent curriculum, youth grow in their ability to empathize, communicate, be team-players, and make constructive choices. The premise is this: when we develop our ability to care for ourselves, our compassion for ourselves and others grows.

System change is central to addressing trauma and to building compassionate and resilient youth and communities. Our vision is that all will have access to skills to develop resilience and compassion. We hope to be a holistic, comprehensive, and supportive model that addresses needs, raises awareness of possibilities in our education systems, and promotes the implementation of meaningful actions.

Processes for Digging Deeper

Throughout the summer, teachers incorporate the following processes to deepen projects and scaffold learning. Doing so supports the development of children’s creative capacities and give a sense of efficacy in the shared space.

  1. Taste/Observe/Try something new (efficacy,  risk taking)
  2. Pretend play (creative thinking)
  3. Journaling  (making predictions, asking more questions, reflecting
  4. Meditation (mindfulness, calm)
  5. Reflection (deepening understanding through prompted conversation)
  6. Physical play and games (body awareness, movement, strength)
  7. Documentation (reflection, making learning visible)

Learning Stations and Connecting Garden Exploration to the Elements

The environment at Borland Garden and The African Healing Garden also serve as our teachers. The learning stations reflect the four elements of nature–earth, wind, water, and fire–and scaffold youth’s artistic explorations and path to developing mindfulness. In each learning station, the elements are incorporated into open-ended materials (and loose parts)  that youth can access freely during designated times each day. They are guided by teachers to use each station with respect and attention to the needs of the group and as a space to explore the weekly themes. All of the stations emphasize free play and active exploration.