Art projects to help students re-engage
Art Education SEL

8 engaging art projects to help kids reconnect at school

As exciting as the new school year can be for students, they can also have worries about new environments, new routines, and feeling like they belong. You can help them reconnect with each other, re-engage with learning, and find an outlet for complex emotions with the following art projects. 

These art projects can help students build important SEL skills such as self awareness, self management, and social awareness, as well as build stronger relationships with others. And don’t forget, you can use ESSER funds to purchase supplies and materials that help support students’ social-emotional well-being and academic success. 

Art projects that focus on key aspects of social-emotional learning 

Art projects can help students build important SEL skills

1. Gratitude tree, grades K–5

Create the tree trunk and limbs of a gratitude tree using construction paper and display it in a central location at your school. During the first week of school, give students construction paper leaves to cut out and decorate. Have them write one thing they are grateful for on the leaves, and then fill your tree with the gratitude leaves.

2. Watercolor quilt, grades 6–8

Introduce students to the stories that textiles tell through a collaborative watercolor quilt project. Choose a theme for the quilt, such as diversity or perseverance, and have each student create a unique piece using watercolor paper and paint. Then patch it together for an all-school display. 

3. 3-D Georgia O’Keeffe flower pins, grades 3–12

Introduce students to the magic of flowers through the lens of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Students will examine O’Keeffe’s artwork and become aware of features unique to flowers while gaining an understanding of how art, history, and science are connected. Students will create their own flower design and sculpt a 3-D example out of clay that can be made into a wearable pin. 

4. Favorite character trait, grades 6–8

Use clay projects to help secondary students focus on self-awareness. Have students choose a favorite character trait about themselves and create a clay sculpture to represent it. Then have each artist present their work to the class and have classmates try to guess the attribute being represented.  

5. 3-D mobile design, grades 4–12

Help students explore the principles of art and design by creating a hanging mobile that reflects their personal design style. First students will sketch their ideas for the artwork and then explore the natural characteristics of the materials they plan to use, such as paper, embroidery floss, or chenille stems. Next they will paint, glue, and assemble the mobile.

6. One-color portraits, grades 6–12

Have students divide a sheet of drawing paper into fourths and choose four moods, such as angry, sad, or excited, to represent within four different self-portraits. Then have students select one colored pencil to represent each mood and use it to draw the self-portrait in each square. 

7. Diversity garden, grades K–5

Create a rock garden to celebrate the diverse cultures and backgrounds among students at your school, similar to this project created by art teacher Jessica Moyes. Read The One and Only You by Linda Kranz or Elmer by David McKee with your students and then give each student a craft rock, paintbrushes, and acrylic paint to create their own special rock. Seal rocks with Mod Podge, and place them in an outdoor garden or along a walking path for students to enjoy all year. 

8. Culture portraits, grades 6–12

Have students interview a partner about their heritage or family traditions. Stress the importance of receiving detailed information about their partner. Then, have students create portraits of their subject/partner with watercolor, acrylic, or oil paint or pastels. Make sure they incorporate something into their painting that represents what they learned about their subject in their interviews. 

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Help students re-engage with learning through art projects
9 engaging art projects to help kids reconnect at school

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