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Outreach participants display Love Quilt at Johnstown Library

Posted on May 13, 2019

Johnstown, PA (May 10, 2019) –Life can be challenging. Emotions can bubble over. And everyday hurts take time to heal. But when children learn positive social-emotional skills that encompass healthy ways to cope, resolve conflict, and nurture relationships, as well as make constructive decisions for themselves, success in life becomes that much more attainable.

Coopersdale 2+The “LOVE QUILT,” a 6-foot by 4-foot paper patchwork of positive social-emotional skill building, is on display through the month of May at the Cambria County Library System’s main location in downtown Johnstown. The quilt was the culminating activity of children enrolled in The Learning Lamp After School Outreach Program during the 2018-19 school year.

“The work that we did with our Outreach kiddos to build social-emotional skills was rooted in the Choose Love Enrichment Program™,” explained Katie Horner, a certified community counselor at The Learning Lamp. “Choose Love is an evidence-based program based on research on emotional intelligence, resilience, post-traumatic growth, neuroscience, mindfulness/focused attention and social-emotional learning.”

With support from two psychology majors/interns from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, children engaged in weekly lessons on concepts such as compassion and courage, forgiveness and gratitude. The quilt was a way for children to put those concepts into perspective.

“The quilt project focused on love and kindness in both self and social relationships,” said Kristin Chavoya, a senior psychology major at Pitt Johnstown who has interned at The Learning Lamp since the fall. “Drawing gave the kiddos a different outlet to express themselves, broadening their range for emotional expression now and in the future.”

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) includes five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making, according to the Collaborative for Social, Academic and Emotional Learning. Results from a 20-year longitudinal study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2015 concluded that strong SEL skills help improve classroom behavior; increase students’ ability to manage stress and depression; and contribute to healthier, successful adult lives.

Outreach staff asked children to create artwork or write a poem that incorporated three SEL categories.

“They could create a self-portrait, share something about activities and hobbies they enjoy, illustrate a way in which they showed someone kindness, depict relationships with family or friends, or share how they made a good decision that kept them safe and healthy,” Horner added.

Creativity and expression through art-making is a therapeutic strategy proven to reduce anxiety and stress in adults and youth. Art-making is also a nonthreatening way to express emotions that might otherwise be difficult to communicate, particularly among children and adolescents. The artwork behind the quilt and Outreach’s emphasis on SEL are part of The Learning Lamp’s Trauma-Informed Learning/Teaching Initiatives Project. To date, 150 children have enrolled in Outreach in 2018-19, with one in three attending two or more days each week.

The LOVE QUILT and other arts-infused SEL activities conducted throughout the year were funded by a Creative Impact Grant from the 1889 Foundation managed through the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance. Visitors to the Cambria County Library in Johnstown can see theLOVE QUILT in the Children’s Department on the 2nd floor through the month of May. Library hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The library is closed on Sundays.

Celebrating its 10th year in 2019, The Learning Lamp After School Outreach Program operates at no cost to participants and is made possible through grants and individual contributions. The 2018-19 program year was supported by funding from United Way of the Laurel Highlands, Lee Initiatives, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, Jacob Fend Foundation, Lockheed Martin Foundation, Dollar General Foundation and a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Johnstown.

The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. The Learning Lamp served 32,799 children and adults from 53 public school districts and 66 private schools and community organizations in 17 counties of Pennsylvania in 2018.

 Our programs include: one-to-one tutoring; before/after school programs; portable classrooms aimed at building math and science skills; alternative education programs for at-risk students; evidence-based prevention programs; online learning and credit recovery; SAT preparation; educationally-focused child care; literacy-based preschool programs; and grant writing and project consulting for schools.

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