This research project evaluated an established school-based visual arts program (ELVA: Enhancing Emotional Literacy through Visual Arts) that aims to promote resilience amongst children and is being piloted in bushfire affected or schools at risk of critical incidents. Evaluation of the pilot program contributed to knowledge about ELVA’s application in environments of trauma risk, and in the post-disaster context.
Disasters such as the Black Saturday bushfires experienced in 2009 are known to produce ongoing family, school, and community level impacts that can significantly undermine the current and ongoing emotional and psychological wellbeing of children (Bryant et al., 2014). While in the immediate aftermath of a disaster communities are often well supported, over time this support diminishes. As such, there is very little evidence about what factors may promote health and wellbeing amongst children in the medium to long term post disaster context (Masten & Narayan, 2012).
Emotional literacy may play an important role in emotional and psychological wellbeing, and may therefore be a relevant influence on wellbeing following disasters. ELVA is a program designed to enhance emotional literacy in school aged children through the employment of creativity, specifically in the domain of visual arts. The program is appropriate for children aged preschool to grade 6 and is designed to be integrated into the children’s visual arts program.
The program integrates psychodynamic, neuroscientific, and developmental perspectives, and has been developed to aid children in recognising, expressing, understanding, and responding to their own and others’ emotions. It is believed that this ultimately serves to strengthen children’s mental health through management of emotions, the creation of safe and contained learning environments, and the increased capacity of teachers to engage with their students.
This evaluation used multiple methods to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the Emotional Literacy through Visual Arts (ELVA) approach in education settings in disaster risk and affected areas, and to examine the impact of the program on children's emotional literacy and resilience. This included use of two repeated child measures: 1) focus group discussions with small groups of children using emojis to prompt discussion of emotions and 2) individual questionnaires completed by all eligible students. This was complemented by a focus group discussion with participating teachers.
A brief summary of the findings is available here (PDF 863.4 KB).
The findings provide some evidence that ELVA is a promising approach in primary schools and early learning settings in disaster contexts. The multiple methods indicated that implementation of ELVA was both feasible and acceptable for the education settings involved. While it was not possible to detect significant differences in emotional literacy and resilience for the participating children, there were positive trends in terms of reduced emotional difficulties. Increased emotional reflection and awareness was demonstrated in the qualitative components of the evaluation for both students and teachers. The promising findings warrant further investigation in a larger trial with comparison groups for an extended period of time.
Insurance Australia Group (IAG)
- Prof Lisa Gibbs, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
- Dr Elise Davis, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
- Dr Karen Block, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
- Robyn Molyneaux, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
- Alana Pirrone, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
- Contact Name
- Robyn Molyneaux