Thriving Creatively: expressive arts-based psychosocial skills training for teachers


To learn more about the work of Cartwheel Foundation, visit their website.

To learn more about The Learning Child School, visit their website.

The Need

Psychosocial skills training for teachers and para-teachers assigned to indigenous communities located in remote areas of the Philippines

The Response

A psychosocial training program in expressive arts-based approaches to healing and learning in the classroom.


  • 33 educators, managers, community builders with new understanding about the expressive artand tools to apply it to their own classrooms

Training educators as people

We started the 4-day intensive standing in a circle, feet hip-width apart, arms stretched out and palms open on either side of us. Our participants for THRiVE had come together as 33 educators, coordinators, managers, community builders; but in that moment they were 33 people who were right where they needed to be, 33 stories to be told.

To give these individuals space in this way was very important for lead facilitator and MAGIS Director Gina Alfonso. “Each of us has the right to be here. Each of us has a place in this circle and a reason for being here now.” she said. With so many different journeys that led to the one moment, it was crucial to establish a sense of safety and belonging at the very beginning.   At THRiVE, educators learn to improve the way they work by improving their sense of self, first.

Through the partnership of Cartwheel Foundation and The Learning Child School, MAGIS Creative Spaces has served in fruitful collaboration with a diverse group of 33 educators, education administrators, and community builders, to bring the expressive arts into the classrooms of children who are most in need of them.

Trauma-informed practice

MAGIS developed THRiVE – Trauma-informed Healing and Resilience-building in Vulnerable Environments – with trauma in mind. Considering it in the broadest sense of the word, the activities over the 4-day intensive addressed both shared community and personal trauma, toxic stress, and the need for resilience. Through arts-based activities, the psychology of play, and individual and communal mindfulness practice, the group learned how to improve their professional work not only by being informed by the science behind the practice of the arts for psychosocial interventions in the classroom, but also by the experience of taking care of themselves first – the same way they take such thoughtful care of the students and colleagues they work with.

One participant described the experience as a realization of the blessings despite issues and everyday challenges. Through activities designed with self-awareness and mindfulness, there was also an element of healing. “I am able to say that I am healed and free from the heavy feelings I was carrying because of my own perception, thinking, and doing,” she said.

Mind the brain

The storytelling, self-awareness, and self-care practice doesn’t end with arts-based activities. With Mindworks Neurofeedback, self-awareness was given new dimensions for us as EEG technology provides a detailed portrait of our brains: brain maps.  EEG technology depicts brainwave activity, which can accurately show the current state of brain, and which neurotherapists analyze to inform customized programs for improving brain function and mental agility. The brain maps alone, along with interviews about them, provide a wealth of insight into the impact of personal history on how we think, our natural inclinations, and areas we can improve. This greatly helped participants of THRiVE to understand their strengths, their needs, and how they can better work together in their chosen professions.  Most importantly, knowing their needs helped them create their own plans for a self-care practice.

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