Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


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Mark Tappan

Second Advisor

Lyn Mikel Brown


Research suggests that students living in rural areas may be more likely to face adversity and stress due to intersecting challenges present in their communities including poverty, substance abuse, addiction, poor health, reduced economic opportunity, and geographic isolation. I conducted an engaged scholarship project in partnership with students and staff at JES to explore ways that open-ended art activities that provide students with self-directed creative spaces can cultivate a student-centered environment built around strong relationships. This type of environment can mitigate the negative impacts of adverse childhood experiences potentially affecting rural Maine students and improve a culture of emotional wellness and a focus on student empowerment in school contexts. In two four-week pilots with two trial groups, I worked with students aged four to eight in art exploration activities designed to disrupt the power differentials of the traditional teacher-centered classroom by placing control over the environment with students. Over the course of the four sessions, students gained confidence and developed a sense of empowerment in their self-directed environments. Students in both groups demonstrated social-emotional learning through art and developed their relationships with peers and school staff in positive ways.


education, equity, art education, student voice, student-teacher relationships