After School Art & Empowerment Program

Art, Creativity, Collaboration, Empowerment, Self-Care, and Self-Confidence

For elementary school students (1st through 5th grade). A similar program is available for middle school.

The ROAR Art and Empowerment after-school program combines super fun, age-appropriate self-awareness and self-confidence building with art exploration. We practice our animal-ninja skills while exploring the link between joyful curiosity and observational skills (being aware of your surroundings) and art making, mindfulness, and creativity.

The pilot program took place for the 2017-2018 Palo Alto School District calendar year, Tuesdays 2:40 – 5:00 pm meeting after school at Ohlone Elementary School and ending at Henry W. Seal Park 5:00pm. The culminating project at the end of the year was a kid-led collaborative movie (written, directed and acted by the artist ninja warriors).

Awareness exercises include:

  • Listening
  • Looking
  • Observing
  • Moving
  • Reporting

Between the start date and the end of the year we will cover safe, low-impact self-defense and awareness exercise including the following from the ROAR (self-defense) workshop:

  • Observational skills – Being “watchful like an eagle” and “alert like a wolf “.
  • Agility – being “agile like a ninja” with the ready stance, claiming personal space, rolling, falling, getting up.
  • Claiming personal space when needed and clearly defining boundaries.
  • Practicing FUN self-defense techniques to engender confidence with voice and movement – “kicking like a kangaroo”, “clawing like a tiger”, “roaring like a lion”, “running like a cheetah”, and understand the importance of reporting in detail to a trusted adult.

Art activities include:

  • Observational “plein air” drawing + field book drawing + and keeping a visual diary
  • Shading/ learning about light and shadows
  • Color theory (specifically how do colors work together)
  • Seeing what mediums can do! Experimenting with a combination of different non-toxic mediums (acrylic, ink, water, spices, dirt, nature, etc.)
  • Collage
  • Card making
  • Drawing games
  • Collaborative projects

*All art activities will be experimental and fun in order to engender curiosity and foster means of creative inquiry. All children will be provided with a visual diary/ field journal.

Other activities:

Mindfulness exercises, reading and discussion, listening to music and dancing

Thank you to the help of fellow parents and educators Maria Brown, Viji Subramanian-Ambati, and all the young ninja artists for helping create the after school program.


Maria Brown moved to the Bay Area six years ago with her husband Tom, and now 7 ½-year-old Annabel and 5 ½-year-old Matthew. Maria grew up and studied in New York. After working in the advertising industry for several years, she decided to change her career path and went back to school to learn more about how children learn, first as a student at Bank Street (a Masters program founded on the ideals of progressive education) and then as an elementary school teacher. Although Maria hasn’t formally taught in a classroom setting since Annabel was born, she managed to keep in touch with teaching and learning: she just “graduated” from PreSchool Family’s (PSF) parent participation program, where she and her family spent five years connecting with a wonderful community and building lasting friendships. Maria also served as a Board Member there for two years. When not keeping busy with her two children, Maria carves out some time to read (which will often be children’s books!), photograph, try new recipes, travel and connect with friends and family.

40584480162_ad5392c0e4_kViji and her daughter Anjali at the ROARworkshop art show