Recent graduates from Telstar working with Tera at Mahoosuc Kids last summer. Left to right: Rachael Miller, Kaitlyn Buck, Tera Ingraham, Brooklyn Kimball, and Shelby Thorman Submitted

 

BETHEL — When Tera Ingraham’s Visual Arts class was hit by the pandemic in 2020, she decided to take art to another level to help the students at Telstar. As she saw her students filled with more worries and anxiety following 2020, she asked Principle Mark Kenney if it would be okay to hold to an Art and Mindfulness class as an elective.

And so it began. The purpose was to teach students how to stay in the present moment and using art to do that. By staying present, the worrying decreases.

“We’ve created this class as a way for them to have an hour of their day where they don’t have anything to worry about and that they’re learning how to practice not engaging in the worry,” explains Ingraham. “So we’ll come into class they’ll get their journals out. I share a quote, some kind of positive affirmation, and we’ve been learning how to take a negative thought and change it into a neutral or positive thoughts.”

Sometimes they meditate. Sometimes they research and learn why people worry. Sometimes they practice mindfulness, by looking and seeing what is around them. Then, the students are free to draw, color, or paint, with Ingraham showing them techniques.

“This is a judgment-free class,” says Ingraham. “They’re in there just to express themselves. Some of them write like a long journal entry, some of them write just their feeling for the day. And then they create and I’ve never seen so many kids just absolutely immersed in their work. These kids, they’re just totally engaged. They’re relaxed. They leave here feeling like ‘okay, I could, I can, handle almost anything today.’ So that’s something I’m super proud of this year that the pandemic kind of brought forth for me to put into my curriculum.”

During the heart of the pandemic, Ingraham had to get especially creative when teaching because she couldn’t share the art materials and the students were working remotely.

“When we were all remote and all working from home, I had to get real creative because they didn’t have anything [materials],” explains Ingraham. “Like we didn’t plan this. So I was coming up with things like make a portrait with food. Take a picture of it. I had them using found objects and then creating a drawing around the found objects. So like, turning a paperclip into something else, you know, with the drawing.”

Since they couldn’t share art materials, Ingraham put together a wish list on Amazon with things she knew her students would need. However, it exceeded her budget. She put her wish list out on Facebook and asked her friends to donate. Within a day and a half, all items had been purchased and donated to the art room. So now all her students had a bag to hold their own materials, things like watercolors, Sharpie markers, a pair of scissors, a ruler, eraser, all the essentials.

Back to present day. Healing from 2020.

“I also think that mental health is becoming something more accepted by our society,” says Ingraham “It’s something that’s being recognized and my students are feeling empowered to share that they’re hurting or that they’re struggling and I’m so proud of them for that.

“And I think that’s another reason I worked so hard to connect with my kids is like I want them to know that they’ve got a person here to talk to that’s not going to judge them that’s here to you know, support them with however they need it.”

Comments are not available on this story.