Tykes & Teens: Coping With Middle School Creatively

Apr 18, 2019

Shawna Scarpitti, second from left, leads the COPING WITH MIDDLE SCHOOL CREATIVELY class.
Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan

It’s hard enough coping with life, let alone life in MIDDLE SCHOOL!

Tykes & Teens is a mental health nonprofit that partners with the Martin County school system, but also has a creative after-hours solution to giving kids the tools to cope, build self-esteem, reduce anxiety, problem solve and uplift hope.

SS: I’m Shawna Scarpitti – I am a nationally board-certified art therapist

Scarpitti facilitates COPING WITH MIDDLE SCHOOL CREATIVELY now in its third year. It’s a free class open to all middle school students in Martin County on Monday evenings now through May 6 at Gateway to the Arts in Stuart.

The idea is to of course get kids to make art, but Scarpitti gets them to open up. And as they create, she teaches practical tools for coping with stress and anxiety.

We stopped in this week to check it out.

SS: They know that it’s not going to be judged. So they know that 1) they might not have to talk about it… and b) that it is not going to be criticized. So that sort of becomes this doorway to freedom of expression.

This night they are putting their artistic mark on cigar boxes, using paints and a special color-bleeding tissue paper.

SS: So think about a personal self-symbol – something that stands for you… that you could maybe feature in the center… or maybe inside the box

GIRLS: I’m Olivia .. Ella.  Ava.

TOC: And do you know yet what you are going to put in your box?

AVA: Probably jewelry.

All the while, Scarpitti sprinkles in words of wisdom.

SS: We are in charge of our attitudes…

As they work, she asks them to talk about …

SS: Ways we can decrease our anxiety… you got it – breath work – doing our breathing! How else can we reduce feelings of anxiousness? Yes we can read….and along with reading guess what I think of all the time, kind of goes with reading. You got it. Well done. We can journal. We can write it out. Write down some feelings write down some thoughts… things that are bugging us.

And she gets them to think about…

SS: What do you guys suppose are a few qualities we should look for in a best friend .. what do you want your friend to have… ya.. Humor? Humor! Nice! Yes? Loyalty… Loyalty

While there, we got to hear from Tykes & Teens.

LE: Hi, I am Lauren Espitia – I am the director of marketing and communications for Tykes & Teens. So, one of the things that we focus on at Tykes & Teens is creative prevention strategies to try to build healthy coping skills for kids especially in the middle school age range because it is such a difficult time.

AM: Dr. Agnieszka Marshall I am the director of prevention services for Tykes & Teens.. So art therapy is so interesting because it goes so much more deeper .. you know human beings that was our first language was drawing on cave walls so sometimes we don’t have the words but we might have the images

PH: Paula Hundt, Director of Development Tykes & Teens. It’s inspirational what they do when they feel free and they are in the moment here and they are coping no only with middle school but with a lot of other things and they are finding a way to express that. And have fun.

As class ends, Scarpitti asks students to describe how they feel.

SS and KIDS: How are you doing right now? Indominable. Indominable!  What do you notice about yourself now? I am more relaxed than I was … Yes! That is what I was noticing too!

Tykes & Teens is now expanding into St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties.  

LE: We hope that this will just be the first of many more creative therapies and prevention events that we will be able to offer in more locations.

To sign up for the class, contact Tykes & Teens here: www.tykesandteens.org