Austin Coloring Presents... The Social Emotional Learning Coloring Book

Austin Austin ISD Austin Texas James Butler Mindful Classrooms SEL SEL Coloring Book Social Emotional Learning

A few years ago I took a risk at a family pop up event in Austin. The organizers asked me to pitch an art activity for families. I sat on the thought for weeks. What if we painted with toys? What if we created comic books?

Eventually I settled on an unlikely idea. I picked up dozens of floor carpets from a thrift store, some essential oil, a diffuser, and soft music. On the day of the event I spread the studio floors with Austin Coloring Book pages, mason jars of coloring supplies... and waited. 

We were going to color.

{Color?} people looked at me quizzically when they found out.

Yes. Color. 

Families began to trickle in. The first group was a large family: Adult siblings, their spouses, and eight kiddos. Most of them were ages 3, 4 and 5. One of the women scanned the setup as the kids began to pick coloring pages and lay down with clipboards:

"We'll do this for as long as they can focus..." she said sheepishly.

I got the sense she didn't want my feelings to get hurt if they became bored. My station was set up between stop-animation movie making and lino block printmaking. Like I said... it was a risk. 

As the minutes ticked on, the kiddos remained. They didn't roll around. They barely talked. Some of them had great fine motor. Some of them less so. All of them focused. In fact, the carpets eventually became so full there was no room, and a line formed.

The same woman approached. Her children had been coloring for almost an hour. "I've never seen them sit still like this. Even for their favorite TV shows." 

Before I humble-brag, let me share this disclaimer: Not all kids love coloring. Not all adults do either. Yet I love this story. I tell it often because it illustrates something that I've known a long time. Coloring is less individualistic then other maker activities. Some might argue coloring is barely making at all. There might be some truth to that. What coloring IS good at however, is mindfulness.

Coloring is tremendously effective at calming the mind. In a high sensory environment, with loud voices, music, treats, and long lines for messy projects with lots of activity, the coloring corner was an odd sort of haven. It was an energetically safe place. It was a place that the brain could have space. Not all kids want space all the time, but all kids want it sometimes. Even if they don't think they do. They want it as much as sugar, snacks, and running around a nature preserve.

One of my all time favorite sentiments is from Fred Rogers:

"We must teach our children that the most essential things are invisible. The things you can't see or touch."

{"We must teach our children that the most essential things are invisible. The things you can't see or touch."  ~Fred Rogers}

It's for these reasons (and many more let me tell you) I am tremendously excited to announce this collaboration with James Butler of Mindful Classrooms. James' story is an amazing one, and I hope to have an interview with him on the blog soon. In the meantime, let me do some bragging for him:

James is the Social Emotional Learning Specialist for Austin Independent School District, and before that he was an award winning early childhood educator. The 72 page coloring book we designed together is supplement for his mindfulness curriculum, which is now being piloted in all 130 Austin district campuses. It illustrates each of the 36 Texas Social Emotional Learning Standards such as Generosity, Compassion, Caring for the Earth, and Managing Anxiety. Each illustration is paired with a sketching prompt to encourage creative thinking and drawing.

As a former elementary art teacher myself, I am proud to partner with such a talented educator, and I'm honored to call him a friend.

 I have a limited set of these books available in the web-store. They are set at a fantastic price, so they can be accessible to as many people, schools, teachers, and children as possible. 

If you would like information on ordering sets of books, email for more information. 

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