When I first heard about Bosque’s Upper School Service Learning programs, I had no idea what I would choose. BATS, the Bosque Art Therapy Society, seemed to stand out most significantly. As a 9th grader here at Bosque, I wasn’t used to the Upper School system of students choosing their program. Unlike the Middle School in which each grade level has a specific service learning focus, the Upper School program required me to choose. At first, I didn’t see a topic where I thought, “Oh wow, I want to do that!” But, in the time I have worked with BATS, I have gained much more enthusiasm, and I have also been motivated to do more art therapy.
I never knew how therapeutic art can be or how fun it would be to do with children who have very different lives than mine. Our first BATS trip was to Zia Elementary School, to make paper mache hot air balloons with students who have visual impairments. Not only was it fun for them—or so I assumed from their smiles—but it was also challenging and educational for us. I learned so much on that first trip. That day, I learned what people who don’t have visual impairments (like me) take for granted. It didn’t occur to me that we don’t think about the little things we can do. For example, we can see in perfect focus the sticky, gooey paper mache material of flour and water. The kids, some of whom could not see how the substance looked, were hesitant about doing the project. Another thing that dawned on me that first trip was that “visually impaired” is a relative, or loose, term. Most of the students we worked with could partially see but were still considered visually impaired. This event really changed my viewpoint on people with visual impairments. It also reaffirmed my choice to join BATS. The work we did with that first school was really a very special experience.
My second experience with BATS was a trip to Reginald Chavez Elementary School to work with their after-school program. We made paper plate penguins and paper snowflakes, as it was late November and was nearing the winter season. I never felt the same connection I did with the kids as I did then. When kids create art with you, they talk and you learn a lot about them. Especially the ones who are quieter—art is a way to open them up. At first, I was working with five or six kids, but then, as they moved on to other things, only three remained. I saw those kids change. At first, the three kids were the quiet ones, trying to ask for help without saying any words, but, as people left, those three started talking to me more, and I got to know them better.
I changed too. I have had leadership experience before although mostly with boys my age (little kids are on a whole different level) and when all the kids were at my table, I used my best “little kid” leadership abilities. But as time went on, and I worked with the more quiet kids—the ones like me who just like to do art—I started to become less of a leader and got more personal. I learned their names and what they liked to do. I noticed later that the three kids that I became closer with were the ones not partaking in the after-school program chaos. Those kids were the ones more similar to me, as I have been told that I “hold up the wall” a lot. Our BATS trip to Reginald Chavez was very different from our first trip to Zia, but just as exciting and informational. I know that I had a really great time working with those kids. Reginald Chavez and that specific after-school program are one of our repeated trips, which makes me excited for a returning trip, probably in the second semester.
The second trip reminded me a lot of my first day of Upper School service learning. That first day, when I walked into the classroom where we meet, our student leaders, Sara '21, Isabel '21, and Paola '21, explained that you don’t need to be good at art to be in the BATS service learning group. They said that no matter what, the students we work with are very appreciative of what we do, and they always have fun. Our faculty sponsor (and my math teacher) Mickey Kivitz, stepped in at that moment and said, “The best thing is when you make art for a kid, and they make you something back.” That phrase has stuck with me throughout my work with students and with BATS. I have already experienced the fun and appreciativeness of the students we work with, and am excited for more.
The work we do at BATS has really changed my viewpoint on many things. Art therapy takes one of my favorite things, art, and adds a therapeutic, personal feel to it. I believe I made the correct choice in my decision to join BATS and have lost all doubt towards the new system of Upper School service learning. I hope everyone has a similar experience that I have with BATS. The things we do are certainly special. I’m glad we are only halfway through the year because I want to go on more trips to make art. ★