Stanmore School is taking part in a brand new project called Empathy Lab which will explore ways of using stories and words to build empathy skills in children. Having empathy for others is a vital life skill which helps children collaborate, form the relationships they need in order to learn, and be a force for good in the world.
Set up by Miranda McKearney, founder of The Reading Agency (the charity which introduced The Summer Reading Challenge in all public libraries), Empathy Lab is passionate about the creative power of words to build empathy. You can find out lots more by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
Stanmore is one of only 11 schools in the country that will be trialing new material for Empathy Lab. We are very excited to be involved at the very start of this pioneering new movement, with a chance to influence what we hope will become a nationwide scheme.
Our work with Empathy Lab last year involved road testing various ideas and resources. We asked the children for their opinions about what makes a good empathy book and exchanged 'Book spotter' postcards with another pioneer school, Moorlands Church of England Primary Academy in Norfolk.
Teachers were asked to read texts with an empathy focus at the end of the day read aloud sessions in class and we also set up an Empathy Detectives Club.
The club met during school time on a Tuesday afternoon and the children investigated empathy with a particular focus on homelessness. We looked at lots of different reading materials including Way Home By Libby Hathon and That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child and heard just exactly what it was like to be homeless when we were visited by a member of staff from The Winchester Night Shelter.
Author Bali Rai also came to see us and we had very thought provoking discussions about how we perceive people and how we shouldn't rush to judgement simply based on how a person looks or dresses. Our Patron of Reading, Ali Sparkes also ran some fascinating writing workshops with Year 4 showing the children how you could alter the mood of a piece of writing by changing the setting or the way in which the characters spoke.
The Empathy Detective Club sessions culminated in a 'sleep out' experience in the school grounds once school had been locked up for the night. The children discovered that having very few possessions, no control over where they slept and being at the mercy of the elements was a far from pleasant experience.
It made them determined to 'do something' to help the homeless and we hope to harness this empathy to raise funds for our local Night Shelter.
This year we are planning to further embed the use of some of the Empathy Lab tools throughout the school with a particular focus on Empathy Book Spotting. The scheme will be re-launched in January in a whole school assembly and we will also take part in a nationwide Empathy Day on 13th June 2017.
It is an exciting project for the school to be involved in and given the current state of the world, feels more relevant than ever!