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Empathy & Resilience: Empowering Kids for the Future

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Empathy and resilience are part of our healthy development and also contribute to an understanding of how to help the Earth. Empathy, the ability to understand or feel another person’s emotions and having a desire to help them, is known to be an essential element of a healthy education setting. Resilience, the ability to overcome challenges, when combined with empathy can lead to empowered teachers, students and schools. To explore these concepts further, the Collaborative Learning Team of John Atherton, Kimberley Mayo, and Principal Deanna Rawding planned an event at their school, West Northfield Elementary School (WNES) on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. They have a goal to promote empathy and resilience within their staff and students as part of their School Student Success Plan. This school-wide day-long event was designed to complement lessons and discussions that are happening in the classrooms. WNES celebrated “Kid Power Day” in March 2018, and the focus was, in more kid-friendly terms:

Grit (Resilience) + Kindness (Empathy) = Empowerment

The day began with Tyler Hayden giving a very animated and exciting school-wide presentation on how he overcame challenges with grit and kindness. Students were divided into smaller mixed-age groups that attended four of the 13 workshops offered for the remainder of the day. The workshops covered a wide range of topics including Mindfulness, Forest Fun, Recycling, and Sounds that I Can Feel in my Belly. The 13 workshop facilitators were from local organizations, community volunteers and South Shore Regional School Board support staff.

Green Schools Nova Scotia was invited to explore resiliency and empathy through respecting and connecting with the environment that supports us. Engagement Officer Natalie McMaster’s workshop explored how our everyday choices impact the Earth and how we are using more than the Earth can provide. Natalie facilitated discussions about the impacts of our choices and how our everyday lives have an effect on our world. These elementary students utilized the power of empathy to enthusiastically create and learn new ways to make better choices for the Earth, animals, our climate, and our global community.

During the “Energized to Keep the Earth Green” workshop, students focused on the importance of having grit or resilience as we face the great challenge of climate change. Students were given an abundance of ideas for how they can live more lightly on planet Earth every day, starting with an energy efficiency-first mindset. The students were empowered to make a change today and they all put pencil to paper and made an Ecological Footprint Pledge. They learned how Efficiency Nova Scotia can instantly help them live more sustainably every day by simply making one phone call to receive an installation of free energy efficient products. 

To close an amazing day, all students, staff, and workshop facilitators gathered in the gymnasium once more with some final motivational words from Tyler Hayden.  

You can see the amazing day in this video that was captured throughout the experience.

One thing was obvious by the end of the day: students and staff felt empowered!


~Natalie McMaster
Engagement Officer, Southern NS

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