The final trimester of the 2017-2018 school year marked the inauguration of Gull Lake’s Peer-to-Peer Art Therapy class–a project born from the collaboration of Art Instructor, Randy Walbridge and Special Education Teacher for the Alternative Learning Curriculum, Tasha Harrison.
“We’ve had some of Tasha Harrison’s students in my Studio Art class, and they ended up doing some really phenomenal work, and we realized there was a real connection here between getting these students involved in art and really keying in to almost discovering a really high level of creative skills and abilities,” Walbridge said.
According to Walbridge, the idea for Art Therapy grew from there.
“We finally established a format for this class that would relate to both students that were interested in art and art therapy as a potential career and those students who have great skill and to some extent give them an opportunity to develop that and use that within the peer to peer structure already in place,” he said.
Walbridge said Art Therapy has proven to be advantageous for Harrison’s students over Studio Art or another more conventional course because the fostering of these creative abilities is the primary focus rather than a secondary one. In fact according to Peer-to-Peer partner, Quinn Scheller, Harrison’s entire class is present for Art Therapy.
“I think it’s a bit more integrated than when you would just go to drama with one of the students amongst a bunch of other regular classmates,” said senior Peer-to-Peer partner, Quinn Scheller.
However, though every one of Harrison’s students is matched with a peer in Art Therapy, Scheller said the peers rotate every three weeks.
“That’s fun to work with different people and chat with everyone,” she said.
Scheller also said she’s enjoyed learning about Art Therapy.
“I think it’s very interesting,” she said. “Mr. Walbridge has given us some information on it.”
Walbridge said he’s been working through an art therapy sourcebook with his class, and that he’s been learning about art therapy right alongside his students. He also said he’s been able to identify some of his own teaching strategies from the sourcebook’s principles.
“I come across something that’s a philosophy of mine, a philosophy of art, but then applying it in this way you see it in action, and I think it benefits both groups,” he said. “It’s literally peer-to-peer. The students are learning from each other just as much as from me.”
According to Scheller, Art Therapy has provided students with a relaxing environment in which they have the opportunity to come out of their shell. She said she’s enjoyed watching how her classmates’ personalities manifest in the projects they create.
“I think it’s really been designed for everyone to be able to do the things,” she said. “It’s the most relaxing class I’ve ever taken because you just go in there, and everyone hangs out and chats and works on their projects, and looks at everyone else’s projects, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
Walbridge said Art Therapy has been his favorite course to teach this year, and he hopes to see it continue to grow.
“There’s just a huge amount of potential, and I want to learn more about the therapy aspect myself,” he said.