Exploring Emotions & Understanding Yourself

Educator: Shannon Martin

Teaching Artist: Denise Silva-Dennis

School: Half Hollow Hills High School East, Self-Contained 9th Grade

District: Half Hollow Hills Central School District


9th grade students in a self-contained environment used visual art and graphic design symbol systems to develop ownership of their social and emotional needs. Artist Denise “Weetahmoe” Silva-Dennis (Shinnecock/Hassanamisco-Nipuc) and teacher Shannon Martin collaborated with students to create miniature figures/icons that reflect important elements of their identities.

Big Idea/Guiding Question(s):

Exploring Emotions and Understanding Yourself Means:

  • Knowing and trusting yourself
  • Understanding what you feel, how to identify it, and how to cope with it

What learning goals/standards did this meet?:


Creating & Connecting

  • Designing individual representation of self using symbolic fabrics, colors, textures, etc.
  • Identifying ways that each icon describes the qualities of a person and their life and how individual elements relate to those of peers and other people in a wider community


  • Understanding that each person is linked to one another - focus on TRUST (“You need to know yourself before others try to define [and mold] you to how they see you.” - Denise)
  • From the CASEL framework - self awareness, social awareness, & relationship skills


  • Development of emotional knowledge and greater emotional literacy.
  • Principle 1: Create opportunities to allow different groups and ideas to become part of the fabric of the school community by organizing proactive community-building circles and activities that promote positive relationships among individuals from diverse backgrounds. Include students, teachers, school staff, leaders, families, and community members in these opportunities.
  • Principle 2: Provide regular opportunities for social emotional learning strategies within lessons and as discrete learning activities.
  • Principle 3: Strive to be culturally sustaining by centering the identities of all students in classroom instruction, encouraging cultural pluralism rather than asking students to minimize their identities in order to be successful.


KNOW… how their emotions/moods impact their physical bodies 

UNDERSTAND… the things that bring us together as humans are far greater than anything that separates us - and it begins with our emotions

ARE ABLE TO DO… put themselves in another’s shoes as far as understanding the feelings of another person and having compassion instead of judgment