Creating Empathy and Reducing Anxiety with Project Based Learning

In the article Parenting: "Teaching kids empathy can reduce anxiety, bullying" Mohsin Hamid, award-winning British author, has defined empathy as, “finding echoes of another person in yourself.” How better to see echoes of another in yourself then by reaching a common goal together, acknowledging the struggles and frustrations along the way, while knowing a common goal can be reached together?

At The Lotus School, our students are wired for a sense of community.  In a recent article in Forbes, Teri Citterman, CEO of Talonn, writes, “Why empathy? Because it has the ability to make a material difference in how leaders lead and people respond. When people feel like their boss knows them, they feel cared for and heard; it translates to inspired and motivated employees. Their trust increases. Creativity increases. Most importantly, people who feel cared about, feel safe. They feel like they matter and that their work has purpose.”

Work and school should have a purpose; students and employees should feel like they matter.  When students engage in a project, one they designed and are invested in, learning has a purpose.  Students then take more educational risks and stretch mentally. When they have a dependable community to catch them when they fall, students can then make larger educational strides. This starts with empathy.

A Second Screening of Angst with a Panel Discussion to follow

Through this process, we all acknowledge the feeling; we teach our students to meet others where they are. We help our students to understand that frustration/anger is here and feels real right now, but it will pass. We build connection to their present feeling rather then merely telling them that it will all work out or to cheer up.

What better place to teach students this powerful skill than in school while learning something that is personally meaningful? We practice these skills while in a calmer emotional state so that when challenges arise and emotions flare, we have the skills to navigate through the difficulty. We have a starting point.

We can teach students to help others by seeing where the other person is, connecting with them in that place, knowing that the feelings are temporary. Seeing this in others, naturally you can see it in yourself.