Fifth graders explore the importance of empathy in today’s world
“No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne
At Carrollwood Day School, “Caring is Common” and “Kindness Matters” – but what exactly does that mean in the context of education and interpersonal relationships between students, friends and family? Can one really be taught empathy? That’s what Mrs. Monty’s fifth grade class set out to discover as part of their exhibition topic: Behavior and Communication Impact Others.
Like the other fifth grade classes, Mrs. Monty’s class chose its exhibition topic after much discussion, the writing and review of persuasive paragraphs, and a class vote. The students expressed a collective concern over the lack of empathy in today’s world and decided to focus on four Lines of Inquiry: Understanding Empathy; the Difference between Empathy, Sympathy, and Kindness; the Impact of Empathy; and Ways We Can Show Empathy.
The students’ research involved interacting with empathy experts from around the country. Through Skype conversations and conference calls, students spoke with Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally-recognized educator, speaker, best selling author, and frequent guest of CDS; Mrs. Barbara Gruener, an author, educator, counselor, and character coach; Mr. Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic Group; and Mr. Marc Weiner, founder and developer of The Empathy Labyrinth. These conversations helped to shape the interactive Exhibition experience the children provided on Exhibition Day, May 15. Visitors to Mrs. Monty’s class were able to learn about empathy through a variety of simulations, including:
- The Many Colored Days Station. Visitors experienced the book, My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss. They learned how the color of each day represents how people may feel, and they were given the opportunity to describe how they feel and what they need on particular colored days. Through the interactions at this station, visitors better understood how other people feel and what they might be able to do to help them. The goal of the station was for the visitors to realize that understanding others in various situations is the heart of empathy.
- The Shoebox Scenario Station. Visitors experienced various scenarios while putting themselves in other people’s shoes and trying to feel what they are feeling, giving visitors a good example of what empathy truly is.
- The Empathy Labyrinth Station offered visitors a kinesthetic tool that guided them through the process of self-empathy, which led to a better understanding of self and others.
- Visitors who visited The Empathy Bracelet Station learned an acronym to help them remember the importance of empathy. They also had the chance to make a bracelet and learn the Finger Switch.
At Carrollwood Day School, we believe our children can and will change our worlds. This belief is what drives the Exhibition, the culmination of the IB Primary Years Programme. Every year, each fifth grade class identifies issues of social importance on which they can educate the school community and take action. And every year, our students, taking advantage of the knowledge gained through individual study and the tools provided by CDS, reach far beyond the scope of their classroom walls to enlighten themselves and their peers.