The Arts and Play in Education: Reflections from Outside the Conference Walls


By Ashley B. MacDougal, Graduate Student, Wheelock College

Now that Wheelock Colleges’ Global Challenges and Opportunities Conference has come to a close, I have been enjoying catching up on everything and wish that I could have done more to participate in person! It is truly inspiring to see how everyone came together to put on this wonderfully enlightening and informative week-long event. First and foremost, I was impressed by Wheelock’s integration of art and culture when it came to the themes of health, education, and human rights. For example, after looking over the events that took place the first day, it was great to see workshops coming together to discuss ways of advancing social justice and making change through movement and art. Although art is unfortunately not always viewed as important, I think it is such an important piece of every unique culture and a great way to convey emotions and feelings, especially when it comes to important issues such as the ones at the forefront of this international conference. Even though not everyone always has access to art, I think that art in itself should be a human right guaranteed to be experienced by everyone. Art can help people not only learn about an important issue, but also learn more about themselves as well. An individual may discover what values and beliefs are important to him or her through the use of art, whether it be creating or viewing it. Art can make a difference in the lives of children and adults alike, supporting Wheelock’s mission statement of improving the lives of children and families.

Participants at the conference got to see children making their own art on the second day of the conference when the Bridge Boston Charter School Orchestra gave a heartwarming performance. Conference attendees were also lucky to see how art and culture can make an impact on an adult’s life with an inspiring speech from Kevin Carroll. Kevin described how an important piece of culture that is often overlooked ended up making a significant impact on his life and motivated him to make a difference. Kevin grew up experiencing a difficult childhood, having lost both parents at a young age and finding that he was lonely while being raised by his surviving grandparents. He went on to discuss how playing games and sports in the neighborhood with other kids helped him make real connections and friends for the first time in his life. Because of this significant experience, Kevin went on to make sports his life, and he sought to make a difference in other struggling children’s lives. While playing sports may often be passed aside as “just silly games,” Kevin turned his passion for the game into an art form, and showed how important a simple ball can be to a culture of people seeking to make connections and to help others. A story like this really opened my eyes to how something seemingly so simple can actually be truly inspirational when it comes to making change.

Overall, I am just so happy with how this international conference at Wheelock College turned out and I have high hopes it can become a tradition so that I can look forward to participating further in the future!

Ashley B. MacDougal is currently a graduate student at Wheelock College. She is certified in elementary education and is currently advancing her license to be certified in special education. In accordance with Wheelock College’s mission statement, She is interested in anything that is important in improving in the lives of children and families, especially when it comes to education and human rights.