Davis Elementary School has partnered with New York University’s Art Therapy in Schools Program to meet various student needs. Starting last school year, the school brought in three NYU art therapy students who were doing internships to work with students who needed support and chose to get that support through the medium of art. This year, Davis Elementary School contracted with one of the students, Amanda Hartwell, to stay on and continue the program.
Hartwell has since graduated and works part-time at Davis as an art therapist. She meets with students individually and in small groups one day each week to help them reach their goals through the use of art materials and the creative process.
“Art therapy support can help students in a multitude of ways including to express their thoughts and feelings, develop increased self-confidence, deal with difficult emotions, get along better with others, and find more appropriate solutions to conflicts,” she said.
Hartwell works closely with Heather Cayanan, who is the school Social Worker at Davis Elementary School. Cayanan said the partnership with NYU and their clinicians has been an overwhelmingly positive experience and asset to the school community.
“Art therapy has been another amazing resource in helping to support our students’ Social Emotional Learning needs,” Cayanan said. “Art therapy is so popular that we even have a wait list for students to participate. It has given so many children new avenues to express their feelings and emotions in creative, fun, and sometimes non-verbal ways.”
Students and parents are hopeful the program will continue next school year.
"I love attending Art Therapy. It is so much fun,” said a student who has been in the program for two years. “We get to talk about our lives and connect about funny stuff and we laugh a lot. We learned to talk about our feelings and associate colors with our feelings. Like red is angry, blue is calm. It has really been a positive experience and I am so glad I got to participate in it!"
Davis Elementary School Principal Anthony Bambrola said he was grateful Hartwell was able to come back for the current school year.
“Amanda was a wonderful art therapy intern during the 2020-2021 school year, working with students along with two other interns from NYU's Steinhardt School of Education program. We were fortunate to bring Amanda back on this year, once a week, to work with students, both individually and in groups,” he said.
As for the future of the program, Bambrola said it will largely depend on scheduling and if NYU has student teachers available. Cayanan said she’s hopeful Art Therapy will expand and continue to offer support for students’ Social Emotional Learning needs.
“We are so fortunate to have this program, and I hope it is a program that can stay around for a long time, and expand into other schools,” she said.