Paint It Out: Addressing the ACEs Through Art

What was your driving question?

How can students learn to deal with their emotions?

Grades Involved


What PBE principles were highlighted in this project?

Project Description

This project focuses on social-emotional learning. It is a positive way for students to work out their problems because that experience is often lacking in early childhood. ACE stands for adverse childhood experience, and this project is a way for students to learn to work out their own social-emotional issues through art. Each month, the students have a reading focus that they pick out together. This reading focuses on a different social-emotional aspect such as being scared, happy, sad, etc. After reading the book together, an art medium is chosen for children to express their own experience with that emotion. So far, they have drawn with crayons and used paper-mâché, and in the future, they will paint, use digital art, and clay. This project is also for parents to work out their ACEs as well so that they can raise their children in healthy social-emotional environments. The goal for this project is to be an ongoing project, and continue with the new class next year!

Allie Cunningham of University Charter School, pictured with her kindergarten class

How did this project connect to your local or regional community?

The class is going to take a walking field trip around the University of West Alabama because they have different statues and art features around campus. The students are going to talk about how the art around the campus makes them feel so that they can learn how to reflect on how different places can make them experience different emotions.

How did this positively impact the community? How was it shared?

At the end of April, the student’s art from throughout the year will be showcased in an art show for the community to attend. There will be different QR codes throughout the event center so that people can take their own ACEs test. The goal is to have the community realize that ACEs scores are real and that knowing your own results and what to do with those results is important in raising children.

Reflection: What was the biggest challenge? What was the most rewarding aspect of this project?

The biggest challenge is that the students are so young and they are still trying to figure out how to deal with those big emotions. They are trying to learn how to talk it out because they are often still processing their emotions and don’t always know how to say or express their feelings. A social-emotional poster has been a helpful tool for the students to learn how to verbally express their feelings. The most rewarding aspect was being able to practice what I preach and have those around me do the same. The ACE test is also going to be done with the faculty and staff at the University Charter School to understand that if a child lacks positive influence in their life, they could crumble under the weight of the emotions they experience. It is important for everyone to be aware that we are all going through different things. Once you realize that there are people with ACEs around you, you respond to them differently and understand where they are coming from.

Any advice for a teacher or student that is implementing a PBE project for the first time?

Just start! No project is too small. It’s always scary when starting a new project because you feel like you don’t have guidance. But even just partnering with people in other schools and having others you can collaborate with can be a huge resource.