So what is empathy? Here is one definition that I found: Empathy is the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another being. I hear that word used a lot by Reggio leaders and in their literature. What an amazing quality to be able to recognize feelings of others – of all life – including nature.
Children may not know that word empathy, but they have that capacity to recognize feelings, and they can take that capacity to new levels. Children apply empathy often to their outside world. As they explore trees, worms, bugs, birds, water, sand, and the list goes on.
I hear the children speak often of friendship and showing friendships through gift giving. They recognize happiness in others when they show they care.
This project began early during the school year when we placed beautiful yellow cone flowers in small glass jars on tiny mats sprinkled with dinosaurs on the tables of our friends the Racing Rocketships. We forgot to place our names on the gift. The Rocketships were so excited, and they couldn’t wait to find out who had placed these gifts on their tables. They set out on a quest to answer that question.
We felt their excitement! We loved how happy we made them. And we couldn’t wait to show them again how happy we are to be their friends.
At meetings and conversations across the day in our classroom, we heard the children planning to make another gift for their friends, the Racing Rocketships. We decided to have a planning meeting for this next phase of our project. The students decided that the Rocketships must like flowers since they loved the beautiful yellow cone flowers so they decided to work with flowers again. One child decided to bring roses from her garden, other children decided to bring in ribbons from home to place on the flowers, and other children worked on cards.
Just this week the children completed and presented their third gift to the Racing Rocketships along with an envelope full of cards.
So many lessons going on in this project: science (why do roses have thorns), math (shapes of leaves and petals), language arts (writing cards with messages in our message center), social studies (ways that people feel and communicate), art (developing beautiful flower bouquets from natural and man-made elements), presentation skills (presenting the gift to the Racing Rocketships), and empathy – feeling our friends’ happiness.
This project has two documentation panels hanging on the wall in our classroom. Please view it; look at its beginning, present, and anticipate the future of where we might go with this.