RestART is a school engagement program that fuses expressive arts with restorative justice principles and practices, designed to elevate young people as change-agents in their school community. Policy-makers and educational leaders continue to discuss and debate reforms, but rarely do these discussions involve the most essential stakeholders-- the youth directly impacted by the educational challenges before us. RestART originated from the belief that youth possess the experiential wisdom, creativity, and energy to inform and act on practical, relevant, and effective solutions to our most critical challenges.
Educational justice is of utmost concern to courageous heARTS’ vision that youth thrive as active, engaged, and courageous leaders in their community. Despite being a city rich in cultural and racial diversity, Minneapolis continues to struggle with racial disparities across numerous areas, including academic achievement. A recent study from Hennepin County also highlights the need for innovative responses like RestART.
School engagement strategies too often focus on problem behaviors of students rather than addressing the root causes of disconnection, such as systemic racism. By fusing expressive arts with a restorative and trauma-informed approach, RestART seeks to illuminate and challenge the harms that have been perpetrated against students, either by systems, communities, or individuals. These harms are highlighted in the three-part blog series by the Young Education Professionals. (To read: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
RestART is activated through an eight-week, small group experience taking place during after school hours at partnering school sites. The process is rooted in strength-based storytelling, problem-solving, and social activism activated through artistic expression.
RestART's phased design, encourages responsive facilitation guided by outcomes rather than pre-defined activities and discussions. This ensures a truly collaborative model designed to adjust to the unique needs of each student, cohort, school and cultural community:
My Story: Youth reflect on the lived experiences that have most greatly impacted their relationship with school - identifying challenges and unmet needs as well as core values, sources of resilience and hopes for the future embedded in their personal narratives.
Our Story: Youth transition from a focus on their individual stories to a collective story - identifying common story lines that illuminate structural barriers or traumas at the root of challenges and unmet needs.
Social Action: After identifying a challenge or unmet need, participants create a plan to elevate their collective voice and engage in meaningful dialogue with students, staff, and community members about practical solutions.
Reflection: With the support of program staff, youth will reflect on the process of identifying problems and cultivating solutions in order to: harvesting successes, evaluating challenges, and strengthen their identities as leaders.
2014-15 pilot Funded by:
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.