“The Art and Discovery Studio demonstrates the potential for art activities to enhance children’s self-regulation by integrating social and emotional awareness with cognitive capacities such as patience and sustained attention.” 

Dr. Jane Garland, Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry, UBC


The AIRS program seeks to gather ongoing action research through a collaborative inquiry process on the impact of long-term engagement in the visual arts for academic achievement and social emotional learning in school. This research is essential for demonstrating the vital importance of the arts for child development and ensuring that education in the arts is protected and funded within public schools for the benefit of future generations. In addition, through our research we are continually gathering data to determine best practices for collaboration between artists and teachers in schools to maintain successful, flexible and innovative residencies that strengthen student learning and meet the core competency goals of the new BC curriculum. 



Collaborative Inquiry

In the 2017/18 school year lead teachers from each school participated in a district wide collaborative inquiry across all participating AIRS schools to consider the impacts of the AIRS program for student learning and social emotional development.  

Similar  observations shared by teachers over the course of the inquiry and across very different sites, communities and art experiences  confirmed for us the common benefits of focused, embedded art engagement for all students. 

Benefits included: 

· increased confidence and risk taking for students 

· increased levels of focus and sustained attention 

· empowerment for students who struggle within the classroom but flourish within a creative, hands-on context of non-judgement 

· building of a greater sense of community 

We are extending our inquiry into the  2018/19 school year, with a focus on the impact of the visual arts on social emotional learning and mental health. 

Learn More

You can read the full collaborative inquiry report about the impact of the AIRS experience for 2017/18 here. 

Collaborative Inquiry 2017/18

Collaborative Inquiry 2018/19

Social Emotional Learning and the Visual Arts: Discussion with Dr. Jane Garland


For our first AIRS collaborative inquiry session of the 2018/19 school year, lead teachers had the privilege of hearing Dr. Jane Garland speak on Social Emotional Learning and the visual arts.  Jane is professor emeritus of clinical psychiatry at UBC, and has been working in the field of mental health for over 30 years.  She is the founder and director of the mood and anxiety disorder clinic at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, author of Taming the Worry Dragons and has been influential in bringing Social Emotional Learning awareness into the redesigned BC curriculum.

What is Social Emotional Learning?


Social Emotional Learning is a process that can be taught.  Jane shared that in order for social emotional learning to occur, one must be in a state of awareness– being present in time and space; beembodied - through an integration of sensory experience; and maintain a state of calmfocus or emotional equilibrium.   This enables the processes of social emotional learning to occur; observation– attending to both detail and how it relates to the big picture; reflection– creating an internal picture in one’s mind and assessing this in relation to existing knowledge; andresponding -  through purposeful action.  It was striking to see how the visual arts naturally invite students to enter into a state of mindful attentiveness  and that the processes that train the capacity for social emotional learning are present within the art making process itself.  

The visual arts foster social emotional learning


Jane spoke about how the AIRS program confirmed what years of clinical experience had taught her, that  the arts naturally foster and can train the capacities and processes necessary for social emotional learning to occur.  The visual arts invite close  perception, attention to emotion and  the expression of feelings as well as visualization through observation and 3D modelling.   The sharing of student work within the school affirms the unique vision of each child within a community of different but equally valuable imaginings,  creating a powerful sense of belonging within community.    The visual arts are a fundamental language of expression that is inclusive and accessible for all learning and cultural differences.  


The connection between the arts and social emotional learning is apparent in the words teachers shared with the group to  encapsulate  what they observed and experienced working with the artist in the studio.