Creative Safe Spaces Introduction

Creative Safe Spaces

Community Arts for Children Series

Animator Workbook


Dr. J. Nathan Corbitt

Co-Founder, President & CEO, BuildaBridge International

Dr. Vivian Nix-Early

Co-Founder & COO, BuildaBridge International

Tracie Blummer

Technical Writer, BuildaBridge International

BuildaBridge is a nonprofit arts education and intervention organization whose mission is to engage creative people and the transformative power of art-making to bring hope and healing to children, families, and communities in the toughest places of the world. BuildaBridge spans barriers of race, class, faith and culture to promote holistic personal, family and community development. BuildaBridge offers unique programs featuring cross-cultural perspectives and arts-integrated approaches that are child-centered, trauma-informed and hope-infused.

Community Arts for Children series made possible with financial support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)  © BuildaBridge International All Rights Reserved


Welcome to Creative Safe Spaces. This workbook is the second of the three part series Community Arts for Children. In this course, you will learn about creating safe spaces for children and the role of the arts in child development. You will understand the importance of ritual and how the arts can help children learn. This course will also teach you how to use the arts to create metaphors and foster resilience in children. Finally, you will explore some basic elements that should be included in programing for children.

The course is designed to be completed in small groups with a facilitator to guide you. You should draw or write your ideas throughout this workbook. It is yours to keep. This workbook is divided into six lessons. Each lesson starts with an art experience followed by a short reading with basic concepts and definitions. Next, the lesson includes a real world example of that concept from communities around the world. Every lesson also contains learning experiences to help you practice new concepts and tools to use in your community. The lesson ends with a reflection to help you think about how these ideas apply to you and your community. At the end of this course there is a list of web links and resources for you to explore.

Course Summary

Spaces for children should be designed to meet their universal needs of love, affirmation, meaningful productivity, purpose, and belonging. They should be physically and emotionally safe spaces where children feel free to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of ridicule. Spaces for children should also be sacred so that when children enter they cross a threshold from the ordinary to the extraordinary world. These spaces need to be creative with lots of color, sound, and things to touch.

Creative safe spaces and art-making experiences can encourage healthy and holistic child development. Art-making experiences promote emotional, intellectual, physical, social, creative, and spiritual growth.

Rituals help create emotionally safe, child-friendly spaces. Rituals define a threshold for a community space, build community, create safety, promote healing, and teach values. Child-safe activity rituals include a greeting, a beginning ritual, an art making experience, a closing ritual, and a parting. One way to beginning a child-safe activity is with a motto that reminds children of values and boundaries and creates a sense of community.

Arts-integrated learning uses the arts to more effectively teach academic subjects. Children and adults have preferences for learning called multiples intelligences. These include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal and naturalistic. Arts-integrated learning allows children to use all of their multiple intelligences when learning.

Art-making can be a metaphor to teach things other than arts skills like: wisdom, patience, goal-setting, asking for help, and parenting skills. Children can also use metaphors in art to express feelings that are difficult to express verbally. The art-making process can be a metaphor to describe life.

Children are naturally resilience, but poverty, violence, and catastrophe can prevent children from bouncing back from challenging experiences. Arts interventions provide a sense of normalcy, support and encouragement, aesthetic nourishment, and a sense of belonging —all of which foster their resilience to future trauma.

Before starting a program for children, community leaders should decide who the program will serve and learn about this target population. You should also consider who will lead your program and what skills and qualities these individuals should have. Finally you must consider what other programs, organizations, or people are doing similar work so that you can collaborate and learn from their work.

Table of Contents

Lesson 1. Spaces for Children

Reading: Creative Safe Spaces
Example: Orphanage in Haiti
Experience: Space Transformation
Reflection: Children’s Spaces
Creative Safe Spaces Checklist
Homework: Community Walk

Lesson 2. Arts in Child Development

Reading: Arts and Holistic Child Development
Example: Growth through Art-making
Experience: Obwisana
Reflection: Growth

Lesson 3. Importance of Ritual

Reading: Importance of Ritual
Example: Making Mottos Meaningful
Experience: Ritual Planning
Experience: Motto and Song Making
Reflection: Rituals

Lesson 4. Arts for Learning

Reading: Arts for Learning
Example: Ready to Learn
Experience: Digestive System Drama
Reflection: Multiple Intelligences
Homework: Multiple Intelligences Assessment

Lesson 5. Art as Metaphor

Reading: Art as Metaphor
Example: Blow, Wind, Blow!
Example: The Broken Pot
Experience: Broken
Experience: Human Knots
Reflection: Metaphors and Healing

Lesson 6. Fostering Resilience

Reading: Fostering Resilience
Example: Building Resilience after Terror
Experience: Teaching Metaphors of Resilience
Reflection: Learning from Metaphor Lessons

Lesson 7. Programing for Children

Reading: Considerations for Children’s programs
Experience: Arts Experiences for Different Ages
Experience: Planning Programs for Children

Course Summary

Course Reflection