Change of Heart!

Artistic Alternatives to Violence

Philosphy of Change of Heart
It is evident that we in the United States have evolved a culture of violence—in the media, in the streets, in our schools and now, increasingly, with our neighbors around the world. We can change that, if we choose, by how we think, how we feel and how we act. And if we are to change these things and evolve into an enlightened society where peace and freedom and cooperation are the true hallmarks of civilized behavior, we must change them in every classroom in America.

The purpose of this program is to teach children how to think, how to solve any problem creatively, how to use their intellects, their intuition, their imaginations and even their feelings to understand what they are learning and apply it to their lives.

Learning facts and cognitive skills and administering the standardized tests that assess that learning are certainly important. They teach mental discipline and strengthen the memory. While children are still in school, tests are the only real, measurable assessment of their progress. Parents need to know their children’s test results, as well as teachers, school administrators and government officials so that they can evaluate how well the schools are teaching and the children are learning. Tests, however—although they may teach children to memorize or to reason logically, or to guess cleverly—are certainly not all there is to learning.

It is the functional understanding of what is learned, in the real world outside the classroom, that enables a child to become a good citizen, to develop lasting relationships, to develop tolerance and compassion and strength of character…to become a better person. The challenge confronting young people in this new world is learning to think for themselves while acting in cooperation with others. Whether it is called "higher order thinking," "critical thinking" or simply "creative problem solving"; each child—in order to survive psychically, emotionally, intellectually and physically—has no option other than the taking of as much responsibility for himself or herself as she or he is capable of carrying—as well as taking responsibility for the well-being of others.

The first step in confronting this inevitable necessity for building a culture of non-violence is to clear our minds and open our hearts. No one can be really receptive to learning when his or her mind is focused on anger or fear, deep sadness or extreme frustration. Every young person’s feelings must have a socially acceptable outlet; they cannot be suppressed or denied, or those feelings will fester and, sooner or later, erupt into violence of one form or another. In order to end the scourge of violence in our schools…and ultimately in our culture, their strongest feelings must be expressed creatively rather than destructively.

The path to peace (peace in one’s heart or in one’s daily life) is a highway of many lanes. One of these lanes contains those kinds of creative activities, which we collectively call "the arts." Poetry, dance, the activities that emphasize visual imagery, music and theatre—through the media of words and pictures, movement, sound and directed behavior—express feelings and communicate them to other people. Thus the child who participates in their creation has a "voice," a means of discovering who he or she is and sharing that discovery with others. It helps the listener or viewer to understand themselves by witnessing their own feelings reflected in the artistic creation, as it helps the artist to explore his or her capabilities of articulating the promptings of the soul.

This is what Change of Heart: Artistic Alternatives to Violence is all about.

"One grows by helping others. One helps others by growing."

In his groundbreaking study Coming to Our Senses; The Significance of the Arts for American Education, published in 1978, David Rockefeller wrote, "The Arts are the nourishment of the soul." Certainly, when we are involved in any arts activity, we are necessarily in touch with the deepest part of our inner being. In any art form, the more skill we develop, the better able we are to express what we feel. The creation of a work of art demands a blending of cognitive and affective domains, inherently involves creative problem solving, requires critical thinking and stimulates good self-esteem. Positive feedback on an artwork increases self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. All these are essential for successful learning and application of knowledge learned. Through art we can safely give vent to the dark recesses of our nature and create visions to inspire ourselves and others.

"Literacy, in its richest, fullest sense, means communicating not just verbally, but nonverbally as well. Now more than ever, all people need to see clearly, hear acutely, and feel sensitively through the imagery of the arts. These skills are no longer just desirable; they are essential if we are to survive together with civility and joy. Without the capacity to extend the range of human expression to include music, dance, theatre, the visual arts, and creative writing, students are crippled, just as surely as if they failed to learn to read and write."
from "Literacy in the Arts: An Imperative for New Jersey Schools." 1990.

In order for each child to receive full benefit from the Change of Heart: Artistic Alternatives to Violence program, Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is used to identify individual dominant intelligences (those ways in which the individual most easily receives, assimilates and applies information). Once a student is aware of his or her dominant intelligences (Linguistic-Verbal, Logical-Mathematical, Visual-Spatial, Musical-Rhythmic, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalist, or Existential) the student develops sufficient self-confidence to be motivated to learn more, then he or she may be encouraged to improve performance in other intelligences, proficiency in which is likely to take the student where he or she wants to go, both academically or socially.

Whereas the Change of Heart: Artistic Alternatives to Violence program is focused primarily on behavioral objectives, it may be used with demonstrable effectiveness for the comprehensive learning and understanding of academic or curriculum objectives as well. The program contains a methodology of teaching involving the body and the feelings equally with the mind and infusing Purpose into learning. Thus, while addressing accepted Content and Performance Standards, while simultaneously being taught how to express themselves through the arts, students learn to identify with subject matter both intellectually and emotionally.

Having fun while they’re learning (or learning while they’re having fun) is a key element of the Change of Heart: Artistic Alternatives to Violence program, both to stimulate student motivation and, as well, to assist them in making the connection between what they learn in school and their daily lives by equating enjoyment with learning.

"When the brain is in a state of positive emotional arousal, researchers note that opiate like ‘pleasure chemicals’ called ‘endorphins’ are released. This, in turn, triggers an increased flow of a powerful neurotransmitter called ‘acetylcholine.’ This is important because neurotransmitters are the ‘lubricants’ that allow connections to be made between brain cells. In simple terms a brain enjoying itself is functioning more efficiently. So there’s a scientific basis for using art, drama, color, emotion, social learning and even games as educational tools."
Colin Rose and Malcom L. Nicholl
"Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century

And this is the way the Change of Heart: Artistic Alternatives to Violence Program works.

Read more:
  • Program components of Change of Heart
  • Five Steps in the Change of Heart Process
  • Sample classroom activities

  • For further information on Change of Heart (Artistic Alternatives to Violence), please contact:
    CES-East, 1364 E. 92nd St, Suite 103, Brooklyn, NY 11236;
    or call (347) 702-7587; or
    fax (347) 702-7589; or
    CES-West, P.O. Box 60698, Boulder City, NV 89006
    or call (702) 293-6363
    or e-mail .