Expression Helps Children Deal with Tragedy
memory I found in my big toe. It was the shape of a star. There
was no sound and the star was face up…” said Tori-Anne Idzinski,
reading her poem to a silenced crowd. Tori-Anne is a 6th grader
at PS 31 in Brooklyn. Her classroom is one of several that are
visited by instructors from the Children’s Movement for Creative
Education (CMCE) each week. Two of these instructors came to Tori-Anne’s
class after the September 11th attacks, which some PS 31 students
had watched unfold through their school’s windows.
had to find a memory about the World Trade Center,” explains Tori-Anne.
“We had to meditate and go through our body and find where the
memory was and describe it.” This meditation exercise was one
component of the first lesson in CMCE’s Trauma Relief Program,
which students, teachers and others gathered to honor at a benefit
Elana Haviv, CMCE’s founding director, had created a similar curriculum
in Sarajevo last summer. After September 11th, she was able to
turn to these lessons to design a program for the children of
New York City. The Trauma Relief Program begins with a day devoted
to the students’ personal experiences in which students explore
their feelings using meditation as well as verbal and written
Lessons focused on community and the global situation round out
the six-week program.
The children of PS 31 “were really very aware of what was going
on,” says Julie Feinberg, a 5th grade teacher. When CMCE began
visiting the classroom, “the children were ready to talk, to deal.
They were interested on many levels – even on just the factual
Judging from the artwork that the students choose to share with
the crowd, many were particularly inspired by lessons on Afghanistan.
One student presented a picture of an Afghani woman standing at
a crossroads. “She’s deciding whether she should do something
illegal and teach,” explained the student, who then lifted the
woman’s construction-paper veil to reveal her hidden camera. “They
really enjoyed learning about the women,” said Haviv.
One of the Trauma Relief Program’s main concerns was to prevent
students from developing social prejudices in reaction to the
events. Without the proper outlets, “the information that [children]
hear festers and then becomes prejudice and stereotype,” says
Haviv. “We have to stop it before it starts.”
While the recent exhibition featured students’ responses to September
11th, giving children the opportunity to express themselves creatively
has been the mission of CMCE since its inception six years ago.
CMCE instructors have taught atomic structure through dance and
anatomy through art, aiming to foster students’ creative abilities
and to raise their self-esteem by recognizing their individual
thoughts and feelings. “We’re doing what we’ve always done,” says
Haviv. “Children need these outlets to express themselves not
only in times of trauma, but all the time.”#
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