Why Community Building?

Community Building can foster togetherness. An intentionally designed space & community, allows students to be seen and heard which fosters ideation and expression and aids in honoring differences while finding common ground.

  • “Without community, there is no liberation...but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.” - Audre Lorde
    Key Elements of Community Building

    Play and Joy


    Partnership (leading to sustainability)

    Asset Driven

    Classroom Culture


Play and Joy

Play is the primary vehicle for discovery, creativity, joy, and practice and provides a foundation for building children’s sense of belonging.

  • Play is Essential

    Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.
  • students hold their puppets playing in the middle of the table, puppets of kids overlap.

    Play allows children to make connections between the phy...

    Play is a zone of proximal development where adults can support the social development and learning of individual children.
  • An atmosphere of Play

    An atmosphere of Play provides a safe space to explore skills in listening, observing, responding and/or reacting to instruction/direction and socializing. It is a safe activity that the student can choose to participate fully or partially and find their sense of adventure. It allows them to try something they’ve never done before and get better at it.

  • Play Shifts the Classroom Power Dynamics

    When both adults and children play together and take on imaginary roles, it allows the typical child/ adult power dynamic to shift.
  • Jojo the TA throws his arms open wide while in the middle of a circle of students sitting in a classroom.

    Model being Silly

    It can be effective to clown and take on the role of not knowing what to do- in order to gather advice from students and help them collectively generate criteria for the work.

    Play Lowers the Affective Filter

    When play and the arts are brought into the room students who may have seemed unengaged come to life.

Building Community & Classroom Culture

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    Incorporate Rituals


    • Offer opportunities for reflection, check-in, and connections
    • Ground students in their bodies, physical spaces, and emotional states – leading to more engagement, focus, and stronger class community
    • An intentional way to hold space for our students to transition into and out of activities, classrooms, classes​
    • <...
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    Share Power - Treat Students as Collaborators in their own learning
    • Build off of student’s collective knowledge​
    • Share power and leadership with your students​
    • Set goals collaboratively​
    • Incorporate input and feedback from students​
    • Sit or stand in circles, or other formations where everyone can be seen & heard, and power feels shared.
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    Focus on Building Relationships
    • Check in on student’s emotional well-being.​
      Work to build meaningful relationships within your classroom community (both between peers & teachers to student).​
    • Be authentically you with your students
    • Take time to acknowledge each student
    • Create shared space agreements​
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    ​Focus on your Students
    • Be present, flexible & adaptable to your student’s needs.
    • Take time to listen to your students.
    • Take time to let each student have a moment to be in the spotlight (if desired)
    • Let students engage how they are comfortable engaging
    • Offer choice
    • Share power and ownership of the space & activity with st...
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    Incorporate Mindfulness and Body Centered Practices​
    • Focus on Breath: By breathing deeply into your belly, you can use your breath to calm both your body and mind. ​
    • Multi – Sensory:  Sense of touch, sound, smell or sight experiences can help students focus and relax. These could be real or imaginary sensory experiences. ​
    • Involve Movement: Incorporating movement can help students...
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    Deep ongoing reflection for students & of your own practice


    • Offers teachers and students time to pause and consider what they have experienced, or learned, and to review and evaluate what happened.​
    • Supports students identify their own growth and articulate what was beneficial or challenging to them.​
    • Makes learning in the arts visible as students describe and assess their wo...

More on Rituals

Rituals are core to community building practices – they develop and ground the emotional and physical connections within our communities.​ Rituals root us in our communities, languages, families, and lineages.

  • “While routine aims to make the chaos of everyday life more containable and controllable, ritual aims to imbue the mundane with an element of the magical. The structure of routine comforts us, and the specialness of ritual vitalizes us.” Maria Popova​
    Transform everyday routines into rituals
    • Add art & creativity! Artistic elements can add that magic element, or specialness to a routine.
    • Sharing power across the community also transform routines into rituals.
    • ​Be transparent with the students regarding intention
    • Intentionality to use the routine to build community


Young people frequently ask the question “why”. And oftentimes, they are left in the dark. It is a common practice for decisions to be made in the name of what is best for young people. This does not lead to community.

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    This work happens in opposition to this way of thinking. It operates under the belief that student choice is a key determinant of what happens next. This can only happen if students are aware of the goals of the process, what agency they have within it, and what is or is not realistic based on their desires.


What does this look like in action?


    Bridges Teacher Research on Play

    Kindergarten teacher Kathy Anderson discusses her focus on the play component of artistic process and beyond. Children make up challenges for themselves through play, and try and try agai...

    Play How You Feel: A Music Warm Up

    A music warm up ritual for checking in on your student's emotions.

    Quick Pose Warm Up

    Use the Quick Pose Warm up to introduce or review visual art lines.

    Facial Feature Warm Up

    Do the facial feature warm up to prepare your class to express emotions or create expressive characters.
    Sensory Journey

    Take a journey to outer space using your imagination and your 5-senses with teaching artist Psacoya Guinn.


    Creating a Culture of Collaboration through Small Group ...

    ML students work collaboratively in small groups to create original dances

    Silly Songs that Teach

    Repetitive songs with hand motions can be used to explore vocal choices, emotions and character traits.

    Silly Songs that Teach

    Teaching artist Ed Woodham uses the Moroccan song Ram Sam Sam to explore tempo & pitch with kindergarteners.

    Release, Reset Prompts

    How will you prompt your students to release and reset in between each prompt?