My 4th grade GT students study masterpieces each year. The story of the Faberge Eggs, annually created for the last Russian czar’s mother and wife, fascinates all of us – especially when considered in the context of the tragedy that later befell the family. I use this piece of history to discuss empathy – how Faberge displayed it with every detail of his intricate creations, and how the Romanovs’ lack of this important trait resulted in their demise.
Usually, my students create their own Faberge Eggs, and then design “surprises” to go inside a partner’s egg. They interview their partners and play different games with them to learn more about them. Then they have a week to make a design that will be particularly meaningful for the other person.
I have cried over some of the incredibly creative ideas that some students come up with for this project. One year, a student created a military medal for a student who had a soldier parent fighting overseas. There have been poems, clay objects, a message in a bottle, flags, snowglobes, and so many other little presents. The students scored each other on how meaningful the gifts were – and many of them made up for themselves in thought what they might have lacked in skill.
This year, egg designing season rolled around a bit later than usual. Since Mothers Day is just around the corner, I decided to have the students decorate their papier mache eggs for their mothers rather than their peers. They also created 3d printed surprises to put in each egg.
As generally happens when I try something new, there were some successes and some failures. Without the interviews and other activities we did in previous years, some of the “surprises” seemed to be less deep than in the past. (This could also be because of the 3d printing limitation.) Next year, I think we will need to do a few activities to help the students understand their mothers as people rather than just parents, and I will open the project back up to any hand-made surprise instead of only 3d printed ones.
In yesterday’s post, I wrote about an inspirational video about kindness that is featured in a series produced by StoryCorps and Upworthy called #WhoWeAre. Today I want to share another video from that series about the unusual way a man handled being robbed at knife-point. It may not be one that you should show younger students, but is definitely great for 5th grade and up. The video is a good reminder that empathy can often be much more powerful than anger or fear.
In this recent story that I heard on NPR, the host stated that a survey conducted by the group behind Sesame Street found that most parents would choose having children who are kind over having children who get good grades. Of course, teaching children to be kind does not work if it isn’t modeled for them. Behaving kindly ourselves can go a long way toward cultivating this in our children. It also helps when they hear and see real-life stories of kindness.
Larry Ferlazzo recently published a post about a StoryCorps/Upworthy collaboration that is producing videos for a campaign called, #WhoWeAre. There are a couple of videos that really reflect amazing kindness, and I wanted to share one of them today. I’m going to call it, “The Bus Driver,” since there doesn’t appear to be an actual title for the video other than its description.
We have a tendency to laud the men and women who make headlines with their fame and/or fortune. But it is people like the bus driver in this short story who are the true heroes of the world.
For more inspirational videos for students, click here.
My elementary students enjoyed the mindset videos from Class Dojo last year, and even ask to watch them again. Since empathy is part of the Design Thinking process, and something we regularly discuss in our GT classes, I definitely plan to show this series as well.
Monday’s post was about a recent field trip my 3rd-5th graders took to Mitchell Lake Audubon Center that was augmented by adding some drone education while we were out there. Before we went on the trip, I did lengthy discussions with my students, particularly my 5th graders, about drones. We have been talking about freedom vs. safety a lot in our class, and this is a real-life topic that fits right into that.
I showed my students a video of how drones can be used for conservation. It is an engaging and informative TED Talk by Lian Pin Koh. We talked about how there is potential for good and for harm with this technology – just as there has been and will be with any new technology.
After the field trip, I had my students fill out some Depth and Complexity frames about the ethics, multiple perspectives, changes over time, and rules for drones. I thought I would share some of their work. (Be sure to read the awesome “Dronuts” idea!)
Our family just adopted a puppy who is part schnauzer and part jet engine. She officially belongs to my daughter, who is doing her best to be a responsible parent. Every morning, when my daughter gets up, I’ll hear a “wop” against our bedroom door, and open it to be assailed by the joyful bundle of leaps and bounds and licks and nibbles who seems to enjoy life even more than Will Ferrell in Elf.
So, when I ran across The Present on TheKidShouldSeeThis blog, I got a bit angry at the boy who treats his new puppy with disdain. There are some powerful messages about empathy and growth mindset in this compact video (and a happy ending), however, that could make for great class discussions.
Yes, I’m a sentimental idiot. Apparently I’m not alone. I’m one of the many whose heart has been warmed by the new John Lewis Christmas commercial for 2014, “Monty the Penguin.”
In 2013, John Lewis produced “The Bear and the Hare,” which may have been a commercial, but it was also a work of art. I’m not sure “Monty the Penguin” took as long to create, but it is certainly another top-notch production.
I realize, of course, that this is a commercial. I also am aware that many people do not celebrate Christmas. It could certainly be argued that “Monty the Penguin” is just another excellent example of manipulative advertising.
But there are lessons in this video much like the ones in “The Bear and the Hare” – the power of imagination, and the value of empathy. And it’s truly delightful to watch.
I will unashamedly admit to crying at the end of the video (I dare any mother not to), but I’m not going to tell you if I bought a stuffed penguin or not after watching the commercial. There are just some secrets a girl has got to keep.