CoMap Advocacy Toolkit

Children and young people today live in a world full of uncertainties, things that can be frightening, and cause anxiety, panic and trauma. Statistical data show that all over Europe more children are in need of professional mental health support than ever.
The therapeutic power of arts activities has long been used by adults and children to relieve stress, treat traumas and also communicate thoughts that are difficult to express otherwise.
Arts has also been consciously used to enrich school activities, especially to make STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects attractive for more students. In most countries, arts as such have not been given much emphasis in education policy and practice. European and national education policy have long neglected arts education other than a kind of ‘annex’ to STEM for promoting the later. Arts are often just subjects, and not even the most prestigious ones. School is usually a place for learning the right answers to questions, and thus there is often little room for free-roaming creativity and artistic expression.
In the past few years it has also become obvious that while schools play (or should play) an important role in the education of children, traditional schools are often unable to cater for the individual learning needs of children. Thus, open schooling has become the main way to deliver on the promise of education – schools, and the professional educators employed by them actively reaching out to and collaborating with other educators, be they museums, libraries, science centres, sports, youth and environmental organisations, individual experts, parents…. and artists.
Within this, arts play an especially important role. Schools are becoming more and more multicultural and diverse with community members bringing in their own artistic traditions that teaching and learning can draw on. Thus, art has become an important tool for inclusion and for fostering the sense of belonging crucial for educational success.
After the school closure periods of 2020-2022, more and more schools and school leaders realise that they need to renew and widen their educational offer. They understand that their students are under a lot of stress and pressure, many of the causes are beyond the power of the school. Committed education professionals are looking for solutions, including offering release also for these external factors in the form of practices and spaces that are alternative to those traditionally offered in formal school settings.
The CoMap consortium researched towards, developed, piloted, and recommends one approach that can help this cause. It is a programme that engages not only students, but also the teachers, parents and community members around the school in co-creation activities using various art forms and in collaboration with local artists.
However, there might be internal and external obstacles to overcome. This Toolkit is to help those who wish to implement such an arts-based methodology or a similar methodology they develop themselves in overcoming such difficulties for the best interest of their students as well as their colleagues who may also need this kind of relief.