Oct. 20, 2022

Postcards of Resilience: Education students pen inspirational messages to peers

Arts education class reaches out to others with notes of hope and resilience
Education students pen inspirational messages to peers
The Postcards of Resilience installation can be viewed in the Student Wellness Services office.

Recognizing that many young people continue to struggle as a result of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt, PhD’11, challenged her Integrating Arts Education class to buoy up their fellow students with notes of support.

Entitled Postcards of Resilience, the assignment saw Bachelor of Education students craft and share digital postcards that conveyed messages of well-being through text and imagery.

“The past two years have left many people feeling isolated and disconnected from one another,” says Poitras Pratt, an associate professor in the Werklund School of Education. “I felt my students would benefit from an opportunity to use the arts to reach out to others with a message of hope and resilience.”

In addition to offering encouragement, the missives also honoured cultural diversity and promoted intercultural understanding and social change.

The students addressed issues that held personal meaning in their lives, such as mental health, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, grief management, and climate change.

Arts in the classroom

Poitras Pratt, who drew inspiration for the project from work by Judit Onsès-Segarra, Verónica Hurtubia and Anna Forés, has long been a champion of arts education and believes this learning is essential as classrooms continue to increase in complexity.

“As future teachers who will be expected to navigate their professional expectations amongst unexpected challenges, the arts provide an avenue for creative thinking and problem-solving that may prove indispensable in years to come.

“The arts can provide a positive focus, nurture a sense of well-being, and generally improve overall learning outcomes for all learners — if teachers are willing to take a positive risk by integrating the arts into their classrooms, they will benefit alongside their students.”

Promoting well-being on campus

But the rewards are not limited to K-12 schools. Poitras Pratt says a growing body of scholarship proves that works of art nurture a sense of well-being amongst creators as well as viewers. For this reason, she connected with UCalgary Student Wellness Services as a venue to share the pieces with a broader audience and give back to the campus community.

Kevin Wiens, student wellness, access and support interim senior director,  was quick to support the initiative. “This project fits well with Student Wellness Services' mission of supporting student mental health by providing care and support, and an integrated component of that is through raising awareness and promoting well-being.

Being able to integrate student learning outside the confines of the classroom and into our space is a wonderful opportunity. Resilience and mental health provide an essential foundation for effective learning and academic success, and when I attended one of the classes as a guest and heard some students describe the meaning behind the postcard they created, it was clear they had captured this intersection perfectly.

Reflecting on the exercise, Poitras Pratt says she hopes the students came away with an understanding of the positive impact creative activities can have. “I am also hopeful that students found their own inner source of well-being and that they will carry this healthy way of being into their future classrooms for the benefit of their students. I also hope that they had a bit of fun!”

Postcards of Resilience can be viewed in the Student Wellness Services office (Room 370, MacEwan Student Centre) throughout the fall semester.