K-12 Schools

Incorporating Healing Activities in the ClassroomImage - schools

A wise person advised that in post-disaster recovery, “The crisis should become the curriculum.”  This means that school administrators, support personnel, and teachers should seek to find ways in which they can integrate students’ experiences of the disaster with students’ overall academic experience and this integration can facilitate their recovery from it.  Here are some general guidelines for this effort:

  • In their recovery, children need ways to experience and express grief that correspond to their level of development as it relates to their experience of and response to the disaster. The classroom, as well as counselor offices can be helpful places for contained and safe expression of emotions related to the disaster.
  • Incorporate disaster-related material in the curriculum to help children begin to integrate their experience of the disaster into their understanding of their life experience. For example, a mathematics lesson might include exercises on food and water supplies, or a social studies lesson might address the history and role of disaster relief organizations. Such attention will not heighten students’ experience of trauma, but rather give them a safe and contained place in which to begin to make sense of their experience.
  • Integration of the disaster is an important component of healing, and whatever can be done to build bridges between the student-as-victim and the student-as-survivor is well worth doing.
  • Plan practical activities to help children express feelings and make meaning of the disaster. Such activities as planting a tree as a memorial for a death, writing poems or stories for a class book about the disaster, and incorporating personal stories of the disaster into the curriculum can help students in their recovery.
  • Rituals can be a good way to help individuals move toward long-term recovery. An example of a positive use of this can be helping children find a way to create a ritual or ceremony to commemorate their losses and their hopes for the future.

Web Links

This 4-page article titled Children, Stress, and Natural Disasters: School Activities for Children provides teachers with resources, including classroom activities to help children express feelings. The article includes activities for preschool, elementary, middle school/junior high, and high school students.

This 3-page article from FEMA provides many resources about children and disasters, including: curriculum and activities, school safety information, disaster resources, terrorism-related resources, and fire safety fact sheets.

The American Red Cross offers information on disaster education for children

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers age and development-specific resources regarding children and disasters

A fact sheet on the impact of terrorism and disasters on children from the American Psychological Association

The National Institute for Mental Health offers resources regarding traumatic events and children and adolescents

The National Association of School Psychologists offers school safety and crisis resources, including information on crisis teams in schools<

The Center for Health and Healthcare in Schools offers various mental health resources for teachers, parents, and students

Sesame Street’s affiliated organization, Sesame Workshop, offers a wealth of emotional health resources for children and their parents

SupportOffice.org offers comprehensive information on supporting children during disaster and trauma