Thesis Title

Positive School Performance: Art as a Second Language to Promote Self-Esteem

Graduation Date

Spring 1992

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Elementary school children who have poor performance in school also can have a negative sense of self and a feeling of failure. As a result, they have difficulty thinking and communicating creatively or intellectually.

For whatever reasons (family history, social economic status, physical problems, abuse and/or neglect) children are a product of their environment. Gunsberg (1989) stated that children’s cognitive abilities arise from their affective interpersonal experiences. In the past decade many educators have found that young children are at risk for education and social failure due to their past experiences. Meeting the needs of children with poor school performance and low self-esteem in a way that can stimulate creative and intellectual growth is a major problem in schools today.

A program that integrates the arts as a part of the school curriculum can be a major learning factor in reaching children with special needs. The non-verbal techniques of art therapy are used as a secondary language to provide the children with a graphic means to express, share, and alleviate feelings. Being creative and sensitive to the needs of the child can in turn motivate the child to establish identity and the ability to express personal feelings and intellectual growth.

Anderson (1978), an art therapist and educator, noted that body image and self-image are intimately related. A child’s concept of self is developed and fostered by means of an understanding and an awareness of his/her body. By engaging in activities, the artistic process will become self-affirming. With the development of positive attitudes towards the body via art experiences, the child will begin to transfer these feelings to his concept of self in an affirmative manner. As the child grows, so will his self-concept.

This grant has been designed to create an Art Therapy Intervention Program for the Central Unified School District in Fresno, California. The program will be used with children in Kindergarten - 8th grades who are at risk for social and educational failure due to the consequences of low self-esteem. The program will be integrated into the school curriculum beginning July 1, 1992, and ending on June 30, 1993.