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Art therapy builds on schoolwide strategies to help students navigate stress, anxiety of pandemic

Thanks to funding from the Student Investment Account, John Wetten Elementary School and the Gladstone Center for Children & Families have added a second counselor this school year. COURTESY PHOTO: GLADSTONE SCHOOL DISTRICT - School counselors are providing expressive art therapy to fifth-grade classes this term, helping students develop skills to move through 'overwhelming moments.'

Naomi Stadeli and Rachel Gordon focus on teaching social-emotional skills in classrooms, one-on-one, and in small groups.

This term, school counselors at John Wetten are providing expressive art therapy interventions in fifth-grade classrooms to reduce feelings of anxiety.

"Through expressive art interventions, students will begin to understand their experience with anxiety and develop skills to move through overwhelming moments," Gordon said.

Gladstone school officials said John Wetten's Skills Learning Center has long been a proactive intervention that helps students learn to get their needs met in appropriate ways. It aims to be a calm, controlled environment where children can learn and practice sensory and emotional regulation while developing a safe relationship with an attuned adult to guide them through the learning process one-on-one.

"We are impressed at how hard students are working to build their stamina and practice daily routines," said Vice Principal Lori Buchanan. "Staff members continue to build positive relationships with students and they are creating safe, calm and compassionate classroom environments."

John Wetten has long sought to provide a Culture of Care that supports each student's social-emotional well-being. Those schoolwide strategies have helped students navigate the stress, anxiety and trauma of the pandemic.

Teachers check in with students daily during each classroom's Morning Meeting. This is a time for children to share their feelings and learn strategies for understanding and managing their strong emotions.

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