The Discovery Center develops cooperation, creativity, conflict transformation and valuing diversity using the expressive arts. The focus is on engagement in social growth through personal responsibility and personal discovery.
Programs include Talk It Out School Residencies, keynote speeches at conferences, weekend workshops, school residencies, concerts, community programs including Family Peace Gatherings, and a summer day-camp called Journey Camp which is in its 18th year. The Discovery Center was founded by Sarah Pirtle in 1992.
An approach of increasing awareness through focused engagement:
As a first grade teacher in 1976 I wanted to find a way to help my students learn to talk out their conflicts and build a strong friendly voice inside themselves. I set up a half hour each day before lunch and used creative dramatics and creative movement to give them an avenue for exploring how to get along. We called that section of the day “Discovery Time.” I found out that when they sang together, the group became closer. Whenever I couldn't find a song to express what I wanted to convey, I wrote a new one. The children loved songs with movement and I began creating lively danceable tunes to go with meaningful words.
As they met to work on positive social skills through singing and creative movement, they uncovered the richness of their own imaginations and learned how to collaborate. I found that this work also encouraged empathy. It was a discovery of what reduced bullying. I found how unproductive and unfair it was to label any child “a bully.” Rather, when they had lots of concrete experiences interacting, they could pay attention to any behaviors that were harmful or any behaviors that kept them disconnected from other children. This approach gave the children an avenue for growth.
Since that time, I have crisscrossed the country leading workshops, offering school residencies for students of all ages, giving radio and television interviews, recording over a hundred songs, and performing hundreds of concerts. Central to these experiences have been the heart to heart conversations. I think the essence of this work is returning to our hearts as a primary organ of awareness. I am continually learning from other people of all ages how to talk it out and how to listen through our hearts.
– Sarah Pirtle
Gandhi predicted that "Undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence." Sarah believes that all of us make important discoveries as we guide our lives. We may not be fully conscious of what we do and so it is especially powerful to share with each other how we use our hearts in challenging situations.
We are born with an innate desire to cooperate, resolve conflicts, and include all people. To bring these seeds to fruition, we need help bringing forward the affirming voice inside us and learning how to contradict bias and mistreatment. The expressive arts help us experience our unity.
As we embrace the reality that we are part of the earth, we rediscover our uniqueness as individuals and our ways of belonging as members of interlacing communities. When we sing and dance together we experience our connection.
We have untapped personal power. We need each other's caring voices in the world.
"We have been fans of Sarah for years. When our children were small we took them to her concerts and her songs of caring, cooperation, play and peace became our family's musical sound track. Over the years we've become friends and colleagues with Sarah and we've had the privilege of collaborating with her on events about Grief and Healing, such as a program called "Healing Hearts" sponsored by Baystate Medical Center which was a day-long program of workshops and respite for bereaved families.
Sarah's talent as workshop leader is extraordinary. She takes children seriously and children as well as adults love her. She's truly a community builder. I've seen Sarah empower groups of children and teens to quickly discover their common purpose as they create expressive and meaningful songs. Bereavement work, cooperation and peace education are deeply important to Sarah, particularly since her own sister was murdered several years ago. Sarah is well-prepared to work with families facing cancer and other illness-related losses.
Her advanced skills as a presenter, group facilitator, performer and teacher would truly enrich any program."
— Rob and Andrea Zucker, Northampton, MA