In July, I posted about a website, Empatico, which endeavors to match classrooms around the world. The site is now offering free registration for teachers of 8-10 year olds who would like to participate. There are four “Spark” activities to choose from. Empatico provides the lesson plan and downloadable resources for each one. When you register, you select the activities that seem a good fit for your class, as well as the days of the week and times that will work for a live internet chat with another group of students working on the same project. Empatico will e-mail you once the organization finds another classroom with similar interests so that you can then arrange a specific day and time for the students to virtually meet.
To register, visit Empatico, and click on any of the hyperlinks that offer, “Get matched with a class.” It is recommended that you choose more than one activity in order to get matched more quickly. Although this project is just beginning, it has a lot potential for helping students to see other perspectives and develop empathy. According to the site, “As students learn together, they explore their similarities and differences with curiosity and kindness and develop practical communication and leadership skills.” Programs like this can promote more understanding around the world, something that seems to be urgently needed in today’s society.
Engage is a two minute video from “Let it Ripple” Film Studio (also the producers of The Science of Character). It’s a good reminder that we only have a short time on this planet, so it’s important to make that time meaningful by helping others. Accompanied by the soundtrack of, “Give a Little Bit,” by Rodger Hodgson, Engage might be the little nudge of inspiration that your students need to become more involved in the world around them. A similar video, which you can also find on my “Inspirational Videos for Students” Pinterest Board, is “The Time You Have (in Jellybeans).”
H/T to @ibceendy for sharing this link on Twitter!
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.