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M’KIS Explores How Expressive Methods Can Improve Behavior

By Anita Brady
M’KIS Explores How  Expressive Methods Can Improve Behavior

Dr. Joyce Mills brought StoryPlay® to Mont’Kiara International School Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. _______________________________________________________________________ Dr. Joyce Mills is one of those people whose gentle nature instantly puts you at ease and allows you to engage fully with the serious nature of improving behavior through expressive methods. Drawing on Eriksonian theory, her heart-centered resiliency and strength-based approach focuses on helping individuals experience transformation, rather than simply expecting them to change. Starting with the wheel of balance, she contends that equal attention to all four aspects (physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional) is essential for healing and wellbeing to occur. Combined with a strong belief in the power of telling stories and the importance of play, Dr. Mills’ StoryPlay® emphasizes cultural diversity, natural healing abilities, and creative solutions. Dr. Mills opened day one of our October 2018 weekend workshop with a traditional Hawaiian story, The Bowl of Light. The basic premise is that each and every child is born with a perfect bowl of light. When showered with love and respect, the child will grow and the light will not stop shining. Conversely, if the child experiences negativity, a stone is dropped into the bowl and the light is diminished. If this were to continue, the bowl of light would eventually be replaced with a bowl of stones. There is, however, hope. Were the child to take charge and simply turn the bowl upside down, all the stones would be removed, and light would return. This traditional story seems, in many ways, to encapsulate the StoryPlay® philosophy. One of Dr. Mills’ statements—“Life’s scars are simply markers of where we have been, not where we are going”—reiterates the importance of not reliving the trauma, but rather focusing on healing and wellbeing. Transformation happens through indirective treatment, she insists, as children find their own solutions within a safe space in which they are free to explore various ways of expressing themselves. Many of the practical activities, while simple, are impactful and can be done with students individually or within larger groups. Here are just two of the many examples shared at the workshop: • The Hands of Kindness activity focuses on building a community of compassionate students. Each student has a page with an outline of a hand and students draw/write to illustrate how they use their hands to demonstrate kindness. After cutting out each hand, the students’ work can be displayed on a communal noticeboard to demonstrate the multiple forms of kindness. • Creating the Getting Better Book helps students to depict the problem they are experiencing and to evoke possible solutions visually. Students have three pieces of paper and are asked (i) to draw the problem on page one, (ii) to depict what it looks like when the problem is all better on page two, and (iii) to draw what will change image one to image two on page three. This activity enables the individual to consider their own resources to solve their problem without relying solely on others. Hence, the image on page three is the metaphorical bridge. This workshop marks Mont’Kiara International School’s third successful collaboration with Hils Learning. It was well received by attendees, including M’KIS faculty, staff from Hils Learning, service providers, and family members from Kuala Lumpur and further afield. Matt Boomhower, Head of Innovation and Learning at M’KIS, reflected that “As educators we have the potential to affect student interaction. Ideas like these reach the fundamentals of our beliefs and practice.” Anita Brady is the Head of Admissions at Mont’Kiara International School, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.> More information about Hils is available at [email protected] Information about StoryPlay® is available at

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