Sandtray Play in Artunsskoli

Sandtray Play in Education in Artunsskoli in special education and main stream education 
7Since 2002 Kristin has directed the learning center in Artunsskoli. This center is a classroom frequented by children who need help and support with their studies for a variety of reasons. From the beginning the students have been given the opportunity to create miniature worlds in the sand and to tell stories about their creations. Gradually this experiment has developed into what is now called Sandtray Play in Education. As well as working with special education students Kristin participates in the teachers’ theme projects and invites entire classes into the learning center, five at a time, to work with the sand and figures on the projects they are doing in their regular studies. The children work in the sand on themes such as butterflies, dinosaurs, stars, space aliens, self-portraits and their dreams. These theme projects have given us the opportunity to have regular students and special education students work side-by-side in the trays. 

In the theme projects the emphasis is on creative expression. A team of teachers including the classroom teacher, music teacher, physical education teacher, home economics teacher, special education teacher, and art teacher, work together to activate the senses with creative lesson plans using visual arts, music, dance, movement, language and the Sandtray Play materials and method.

Sandtray Play in Education in Artunsskoli in the schoolyears 2015-16 and 2016-17
Sandtray Play in Education is used frequently with the pupils coming regularly to the Learning Center and they work in the sand individually or in groups of 2-3. Kristín participates as well regularly in theme projects that are organized for individual classes or group of classes. Then the children work individually in groups of 4-5. In these two schoolyears themework has been on the schedule for 160 pupils.
See photogallery

  • Themework in 2015-161
    • Mice with 39 children from the Kindergarten class and 1st grade.
    • Dreams with 20 pupils from 5th grade.
  • Themework in 2016-17
    • Butterflies with 40 children from the Kindergarten class and 1st grade and 39 pupils from 2nd grade.
    • Self-portraits with 22 pupils from 7th grade.

In the themework projects the Learning Center serves as one of the stations the children come to and work during the project. Sometimes bigger groups or even all the children are gathered for various lessons, presentations or storytellings. The emphasis in these projects are on creative expression, vocabulary and reading in a broader sense.

  • In the Butterflies theme the children worked with the lifecycle of butterflies using visual arts, music, dance, movement, language and the Sandtray Play materials and method where they told their own stories.
  • In the project of Mice the children fulled wool to make mice, gathered leaves and straw to put in the mouse nests made of decorated shoeboxes. They baked mice with almond ears and a tail of black licorice, listened to various stories about mice which they illustrated and told their own stories about their mice in the Sandtray Play.
  • In the Dreams project the children kept a diary about their dreams for a week as a language assignment with their classroom teacher. They chose one of their dreams and made a Sandtray Play inspired by it. They also made a clay statue of a wonder animal known as baku in Chinese and Japanese flolklore.
  • In the project of Self-portraits in the sand the children were not asked to express themselves verbally about their sand worlds, but to let the creation in the tray do this for them.


The book Sandtray play in Education by Kristin Unnsteinsdottir and Barbara Turner, published 2015 and republished 2016 by Temenos Press, is based on the experience of sandtray play in the Learning Center of Artunsskoli which has been practiced since 2002.