Tag Archives: think piece

Creating Fertile Ground for Healing, Growth, and Endless Possibilities

When a child is able to connect an experience in their life to the broader world around them, something magical happens!

There is a moment. An expression. A pause. A light bulb turns on, and a child who is struggling no longer feels alone. They feel safe. They feel understood. That is the moment in which we as counselors and educators can truly make a difference. When that moment combines with laughter, play, and creativity, then the possibilities for healing are endless.

Don’t get me wrong, these experiences are rare. Those of us who work with at-risk youth focus all efforts on creating those kinds of moments, but the truth is that you can’t force them – all you can do is create the space for them to happen. This work is what CareFirst and all of the other Garden of Fire partners are trying to accomplish in our summer programming. In the recent Rain Stick Making workshop led by CareFirst’s Tara Chapman, these moments were abundant.

Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography

You can see the look in their eye as they were able to connect their emotional experiences to the world around them, and specifically, to this year’s theme of water. The children were able to talk about their life, times when they had difficult things happen, and how they cope with the intense emotions of life we all feel.  They used the symbol of water and created rain sticks that allowed them to create music and express themselves in a new and unique way.

These kinds of activities are what help young minds grow.

When we as humans combine nature and creativity with a chance to process our emotions and focus on our own well-being, it creates fertile ground for healing, growth, and endless possibilities.

There is no greater blessing than to see this in our youth and to know that the future of tomorrow is being left in the hands of children who have not only expanded their minds, but healed their hearts.

Chelsea E. Ambrose
Counseling Services Manager, CareFirst

Living Your Best Life

“Success is making a positive difference through art, making art that affects the world and that changes the way people feel about themselves and the world.”
–  Katerina Graham  

We strive for this kind of success!  Success where the children involved in the Garden of Fire program not only create beautiful pieces of artwork that change the landscape of their visual world, but that also changes the landscape of their soul and of their life. Children innately create, explore, and ask questions.  The Garden of Fire provides them with the opportunity to do this and so much more.  Students learn to look within, and begin to understand how creating art is one way that they can develop a stronger sense of wellness in their life.

A proud student poses next to his creation!
A proud student poses next to his creation!

At first glance, the role of CareFirst in the Garden of Fire program might seem like an unlikely fit.  How does a healthcare organization, especially one that serves dying patients and grieving families, work with children on art and science?  We are not here to talk to children about death.  We are here to fulfill our true mission by talking to them about life – how they can live their best life!   In our program this year we will be acknowledging that life isn’t always easy – that even in hard times, we can observe the world around us and be reminded of our own strengths.  In developing our lesson plans for the 2015 workshops we are focusing on how children can use their awareness of nature and creation of artwork as coping strategies; this will help them in dealing with life’s difficult situations in a healthy and productive way.

The plan is to start by encouraging children to practice mindfulness in an age-appropriate way – how to live in the present, to be aware of what is happening around them, and to pay attention to what they are experiencing at any given moment. What they are seeing, touching, feeling, etc. impacts the way they understand the world and therefore, the way they feel about any given situation. Having an acute awareness of their experience will transition into using symbols and metaphors as a way of understanding themselves and how they relate to others.   Using symbols is a way of helping all of us understand our place in the world.


How are we the same from the other people, animals, plants, and objects around us?
How are we different?
What is the meaning and symbolism of art materials?
How does that translate to the artwork itself?

For example, we are creating wind tunnels out of natural materials with artists Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley. Wind can be strong and intense, causing great destruction in the world. But, it can also be gentle and soothing, reminding us that we all can choose to live our life as a hurricane or a gentle breeze. Tree saplings can represent growth and new beginnings in our lives and vines are both durable and flexible, reminding us of the flexibility we need to cope with the ever-changing circumstances of our lives.

Thinking about this kind of symbolism helps children shape their understanding of themselves; this leaves them feeling stronger and more assured about who they are and who they want to be.  Additionally, it reminds them to find a balance between the intellect and the heart and uses both their understanding of art as well as the creative process to help them achieve success – “success that changes the way people feel about themselves and the world.”

Chelsea Ambrose