Expression, as a method of education has its roots in the thought of the mid-eighteen century educational philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. Education to expression complements and completes preventive education. The forestalling of harm is always in view of the complete growth of the young person. The expressive method provides a wide variety of opportunities for maturation. Experiential learning, talent-nurturing, skills-development, training for livelihoods – all these possibilities are made available in order to create the positive reinforcement needed for a healthy self-esteem and for growth in self-actualization and citizenship. The entire pedagogical experience is based on cooperation with one’s peers.

- Outdoor excursions, hikes and picnics are rich learning occasions for  personal and group expression.
- Games and sports are experiential lessons in discipline and peer collaboration.
- Communication skills facilitate capacity-building and  help to break the inhibitions of children, especially those suffering from complexes caused by past negative experiences or social discrimination.

While Don Bosco called his method the 'preventive system', he applied it in a manner that was intrinsically linked to his exuberant and expressive personality. These expressive characteristics form part of his educative methodology. They  transcend the merely preventive aspects of protecting from harm to include positive motivation of young people to be the best they can be. Preventing young people from bad influences was essentially linked to training them for self-expression through creative activity. If prevention was better than repression. Expression was the best form of preventing and combating negative influences - especially those that caused psychological and moral damage.

Through expressive education he strengthened the fundamental capacity of the youngsters to believe in themselves by feeling valued, cared for and loved. A healthy self-esteem was the foundation upon which all else could be built. Whether it was teaching languages, presenting the metric system, getting them to sing in chorus, letting them enjoy an excursion to the countryside or training them for a professional job - Don Bosco's expressive education was directed towards self-discovery, the forming of character and the strengthening of personal resiliency against the great challenges that life had in store for his young friends.  

It is worth noting that Don Bosco’s use of expressive techniques anticipates by a hundred years the ideas of twentieth century humanistic psychology and cooperative education. The advice he gave his followers in 1877 when the mentality in most educational institutions catering to juvenile delinquents was still largely repressive is truly avant-garde: "Let the boys have full liberty to jump, run and make as much noise as they please. Gymnastics, music, theatricals and outings are most efficacious means of obtaining discipline and of benefiting spiritual and bodily health." (Treatise on the Preventive System, 2.2)

Through the encouragement of personal and community expression, Don Bosco gave young people opportunities for maturing in body, mind and spirit, for leadership, for talent-development, for becoming honest citizens capable of contributing positively to the betterment of society. This harmonious blend of the preventive and expressive methods distinguishes Don Bosco’s educational approach from other exclusively preventive approaches of his time.

Art: Faria Helio