A Necessary Element: The Arts and SEL in After School

Creative expression through the arts is an integral component in early education, whether it’s young people engaging in performing arts, theater, dance, music, media arts, literature or visual arts. Because of this, AlphaBEST works hard to ensure creative programming opportunities are available for youth.


“Participation in the arts gives students the space—literally and figuratively, as well as the time and opportunity—to express themselves,” said Mary Carbullido, Executive Director of Art in Action, which specializes in visual arts for elementary and middle school-aged children. “It allows a safe space to create without bias, allowing children to make mistakes, which encourages open-mindedness, perseverance and innovation.”


Creativity is a learned skill that can be modeled and developed, Carbullido says, rather than being a skill we’re born with. It encourages kids to think beyond themselves, developing critical emotional skills such as compassion, empathy and resilience, which explains why there’s also a strong tie to SEL within the arts.


“After school programs fill in the enrichment gaps by providing programming that may not be available during the school day, offering experiences that support social emotional learning through the arts,” said Carbullido. “This helps children to develop self-awareness and interpersonal skills by exposing them to different cultures and experiences beyond their own family or community, in addition to gaining a different perspective and fostering empathy and understanding.”


Because educating the “whole child” is critical for a young learner’s development, Carbullido says the arts are a wonderful way to teach the 4 C’s of education: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.


“Visual arts can be considered a ‘language’ that has to be learned,” explained Carbullido. “For example, children need to be taught about art concepts, such as how geometric shapes fit together to build structure, that linear perspective is a formula, and how primary colors are combined to make secondary colors.”


When art and creative expression is left out of a child’s learning, Carbullido explains, they aren’t afforded the opportunity to achieve a “whole child” education.


“With the arts, children gain an understanding about artists lives, participate in thoughtful discussions about art concepts, and have the opportunity to explore their creativity unhindered.”


Explore what creative opportunities AlphaBEST has to offer today.