Walking into the office of school social worker Maureen Eigenfeld is like walking into an oasis of color and freedom.
Students go there to talk about what’s bothering them — but also to paint on the walls, knead clay and make sculptures, paint on canvas, decorate masks and work with beads.
“I needed a way for the kids to open up when I started working here,” Eigenfeld said of the Bronx Writing Academy, a United Community School in Concourse Village.
She wanted an activity that wasn’t stressful and didn’t involve asking intrusive questions. “Middle school is a very anxious time for kids. They’re developing in all kinds of ways, and this is a safe, calm area for them to explore,” she said. “We were painting or playing with clay, with no agenda attached.”
Eigenfeld, who paints and crafts herself, has made art the cornerstone of her therapeutic work with students. “If a kid is upset, I bring them to my office and pull out some art supplies and that alone helps them decompress,” she said. Simply handling materials like clay and paint can be a form of sensory therapy, she noted.