Arts-based Experiential Learning

Through the Creative Community Model, AYLE uses the arts, including movement, music, theater, and creative writing, to build an intentional community of students to develop leadership skills. 

Hannah said that she had always had doubts about the power of art. Arts-based learning always seemed so abstract and frivolous to her, wasting time that could be used in simply facilitating the session. At AYLE, however, she has seen the transformations in these students and the strong, intentional community that they have built over the past five days.

The Creative Community Model is a framework for how to build this kind of safe space, laying a foundation where students feel comfortable taking risks and can then learn faster and with more enthusiasm. It structures a camp experience. AYLE began with a warm welcome and the group then came up with a group contract for the space: community norms that reward risk-taking and questions. AYLE campers were then given a challenge—something easy to start with that, once accomplished, made them feel like a team. The challenges increased day by day, building team power. The arts contributes to this goal of team-building in two ways. The first is that arts and using creativity is a risk, and taking risks in a group strengthens community. Sharing drawings or songs requires sharing parts of yourself, which in turn builds trust. The second is that creating art relaxes people. It brings people’s guards down, and once they are in this safer space, conversations can happen that access a deeper level of connection. After a few days of singing together, dancing together, and making art together, these students are open and excited about learning. They now feel safe enough with the facilitators and each other to take risks and try things like speaking in front of a crowd.

AYLE campers have been making so much art– the facilitators wake up every morning and there are new drawings covering the walls of the main hall and campers practicing break dance moves or taking turns with Faustin’s guitar. 

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