Strengthening Resilience in Young People Through Creativity


Diana (3rd Grade) Inner Landscape and poem:

I am the summer breeze, the cheetah’s dots and the bird’s glare

I am Powerful, faster than a cheetah

I am warm like a mountain

I am wavy as the grass, and wet, too

I am a cheetah with a bird on my back

We both look for prey as we move along

I am gazing through the hot sun and the wet grass

I am jumping rock to rock

The beautiful streaming fish are, too


5 unpainted dancers

Before the Students paint their Inner Landscapes

In the face of unprecedented challenges, there are tools we can give our young people as a vital source of protection – finding strength within and connecting to the world.  The purpose of the “Inner Landscape Project” is to give students an opportunity to explore their Inner Space in order to realize their unique imagination, their genius and their deepest values.  The project affirms that each student matters, that their passions matter and the choices they make in creating a work of art matter. Seen together, the cut-outs are an explosion of joy and positivity. The student artwork adds to the welcoming school climate, as the students feel ownership, seeing their beauty reflected around the school.

The Inner Landscapes below are at Hamilton Elementary School in Novato, California – a school that is 85% free and reduced lunch.  This arts integration project involves writing, mind-mapping, design thinking, drawing, painting, poetry and speaking. Through Create Peace Project, I co-facilitated the creation of 85 Inner Landscapes with Lili Lopez, funded by the Sausalito Arts Festival Foundation’s Artists Teaching Art.




We consciously prepare young people for the 21st century by giving them the space to practice making decisions and taking action.  After filling out a questionnaire, the students decided what pose to be in, what animal and plant to portray, what colors to use, how to incorporate the five simple shapes and what words reflect the symbolism of their artwork.  Such a rigorous process resulted in a joyful experience where the students exert power and freedom.

Johnny Painting Jean & Morgan Poetry army



5th graders acted as mentors throughout the project which added to community bonding.




The project also added to a greater sense of community as the students saw the beauty in the diversity of their Inner Landscapes.





The next phase of the project is make a book with all the students Inner Landscapes and their “I Am” poems, so that every student can have a copy of their classes’ work.



Here are two more of the paintings and poems.



I am the land who lets me walk                        David

I am the blood who goes through my body

I am the water who helps me keep cool

I am the lava who flies out of the volcano

I am the monster who travels through caves

I am the skeleton who hunts at night

I am the eyes who watches the people








Grace with IL copyGrace

I am an Egyptian queen,

who cares for my land

I send my beetle army

to save my children

I am My Ba, the birds who are souls that

fly in the night

I look after the Gods,

Who take care of the Nile

Who takes care of

the fish and the plants

I want to help my people grow crops

in black dirt

I don’t want to harm them with the

sand where nothing grows

I want to stop the sand

I want to heal the sick


Let us partner the genius of youth to transform the world into a more playful and loving place.



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