Empathy Lessons on the Learning Farm

This week we had an amazing planting day on the Learning Farm. I was struck watching our students nurturing the plants as they gently placed them in their plats, observing our teachers sharing with the students the importance of their work, and enjoying the joy of our school community expressed through the farm. All of this made me think of the importance of practicing empathy.
Empathy is a skill – one that we should cultivate and strengthen through practice. It requires us to imagine how someone else is feeling and then respond in a caring way. When our students care for the plants and chickens on the Learning Farm they exercise their empathy muscles. They learn through experience that 1) everything has needs; 2) these needs are not always identical; and 3) they can help meet those needs.
Empathy Exercises Teach Us:
  1. Everything has needs: Care-taking teaches us that all living creatures are fundamentally connected.  We all need food, shelter and care. When those needs aren’t met, we cannot thrive.
  2. Needs are not always identical:  Caring for living things teaches children that we all have unique needs, and this informs their empathy. For example, we all need food, but our chickens have unique needs. We all need love, but the chickens may not want a hug. Some plants require full sun, and some blossom in the shade.
  3. I can help meet those needs: Children’s brains are hard-wired for empathy, so when we give them opportunities to act upon those feelings, we build their empathy and confidence that they can have an impact on the world around them.
Our Learning Farm is an amazing place to learn about sustainability, agriculture, multi-disciplinary studies and so much more. However, it is also a place to learn about, and practice, empathy as we ignite passions to impact our world.