FRESNO, California (KSEE) – You may have seen the heartwarming videos of Italians confined to their homes due to the coronavirus singing from their balconies – but music and the arts are also helping students here in the Central Valley too.

Research shows that the arts help students learn but it can also help students cope with trauma: it’s called social-emotional learning. Art, music, dance have all been proven to help a person’s mental well being.

“We can give kids an outlet when they are struggling socially, emotionally,” said Fresno Unified Visual and Performing Arts’s Catherine Aujero. “If they can draw and put their challenges and emotions to paper or to movement and dance and to express things it’s just a fantastic resource.”

It’s a resource Fresno Unified’s Heaton Elementary School has embraced. It’s called social and emotional learning.

“I’m an advocate for the arts and I feel that it ties to a child’s soul and allows them to express themselves,” said principal Laura Gemetti.

Gemetti says many of her students face challenging situations at home: a divorce, domestic violence, or bullying on the way to school. At Heaton, teachers are using art and music to help them cope.

Schoolwide classes start with a morning meeting. The students greet each other with a song, saying each other’s name. Teachers say it helps them connect with one another develop a sense of community

“Every morning when they ask their friends how are they are doing if they state an emotion they have to state a reason why they feel that way,” said teacher Bonnie Bel Ortiz.

Heaton also works with Every Neighborhood Partnership, a faith-based group that serves schools and provides volunteers with an afterschool physical fitness program.