Kindergarten News: Developing Empathy
This week just flew by with a birthday celebration and so many activities to engage in, it will be hard for me to encapsulate what a rich and full week it has been. I witnessed the first spitting of snow, sleet and rain this week signaling that it is time to hunker down and keep the home fires burning; inside myself and literally in the wood stoves. It is such a gift of warm greeting to have the element of fire a part of our every day experience in the classroom. It offers warmth and light that we long for this time of year.
We took a long journey to find a new giant twisted vine and collectively build a shelter in the woods. The children were well prepared with many layers,heavy coats, mittens and hats. They were plenty warm from carrying wood to the basement fires, hoeing and raking in the garden, rolling pumpkins, dragging sunflower stalks to the compost, galloping like horses, hauling dead trees, and rolling down the hill, all creating warmth. The children’s noses and cheeks were rosy pink.
There is a different kind of inner warmth they are learning to create as well. Through imitation they are beginning to greet one another with welcoming warmth. Imitatively they learn expressions of warmth to develop empathy for others.
I saw a beautiful example of this one afternoon. Many children were playing hospital and there were multiple “broken legs” and numerous physicians. The play was in full swing and one child wished to be a part of the play. She asked if they could play and one child said, “We do not need any more doctors. Are you sick?” She replied, “No.” Then the organizer said,”Well, you can always be a comforter. Come over here and sit to comfort him while he is getting his broken leg fixed.” This example of inclusivity, creativity and the idea that a “comforter” would be helpful, is a picture of how children can develop these social capacities through their imitative play. This is another type of warmth that is fostered each day at school. Imitation is a powerful tool for us to come to work with. If we as adults are modeling warmth toward others and warmth toward the purposeful work we do each day, it effects the children in a profound way.
Children live in a different type of consciousness where words rarely are regarded, where as our actions and our inner thoughts and feelings make an important impact. If we are rushed , stressed and resentful of all the work we have ahead of us, it creates a much different experience for the young child to imitate. It is challenging to “keep the home fires burning”, literally and figuratively, but in the end we all are rewarded with warmth. We have so many opportunities to create warmth to offer growth for the children. The most important is being an example for them to imitate.
I hope everyone enjoys the Harvest Festival this weekend. Please thank Emily Abruzzi and Micah Stewart for their tremendous effort in organizing a wonderful event! Stay Warm!
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