Posts tagged ‘sense of place’

March 24, 2014

The Importance of Kindness: Teaching Empathy Through Interaction with Nature

by Melissa Harding

Phipps Science Education_ Butterflies (3)

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
– Henry James

Everyone wants to be liked.  There is an inherent human need to feel like an accepted member of a group. That is why many of us join clubs and professional organizations. We all feel our best when we think we are liked for who we are; it makes us happy. However, if the number of books on happiness research are any indication, we are all striving to be happier. This can be especially difficult for children, who are learning to navigate the social landscape as they go. Fortunately, there is new research from the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University that suggests the best way for children to feel liked and accepted by their peers, to feel happy, is through practicing kindness.

A sense of empathy, or the ability to put oneself into the shoes of another, is the basis for kindness; if a person is empathetic, he is able to read a situation and put the needs of others above his own. Prompting people to engage in pro-social behaviors, such as helping others, increases feelings of well-being; conversely, people who are happy are much more likely to help others. In an experiment conducted in 19 classrooms in Vancouver, 9- to 11-year olds were instructed to perform three acts of kindness per week over the course of 4 weeks. A control group of students was asked to visit three places in the same time frame. Students in both groups showed improved feelings of well-being, but students who performed acts of kindness experienced greater peer acceptance than students from the control group. In essence, those students who were kinder and more empathetic to others were more popular and well-liked.

With the high incidence of bullying in schools, as well as spikes in depression and anxiety in students, this is an idea worth considering. Peer acceptance is an important goal, as it increases a sense of well-being. Empathy is not only an essential social skill, but an academic one; research shows that successful learners are not only knowledgeable, but also empathetic. Successful students not only exceed in the classroom, but in the community. The ability to be empathetic is found naturally in all of us, but requires nurturing to be properly developed. One way to teach these skills is through engagement with nature.

IMG_1235

Children often have a natural affinity with the natural world, especially animals.  Animals are a constant source of wonder for children, baby animals in particular; children naturally feel emotionally invested in animals. This fact is well-known in the medical community; there are a growing number of pet and equine therapy programs for children who are the victims of abuse or who have mental illness. Owning a pet, volunteering at an animal shelter or caring for a class pet are all ways that children can bond directly with animals. The bond that forms between child and animal has been shown to increase social competence and sense of well-being. As a child cares for and nurtures an animal, he or she develops a sense of empathy, which in turn promotes pro-social behaviors towards other people.

Another way to create a sense of empathy is through creating a sense of place. Whether it is a backyard or a local park, allowing children the time and freedom to explore, play in and care for a green space will create an affinity with the area. Research shows that those children with a sense of place are also more likely to turn their love of one place into a love for all of nature; this creates a sense of empathy with the natural world. Even caring for plants, for instance in the form of gardening, is beneficial. Spending time outside with trusted adults and watching them demonstrate their own care for nature helps to form a child’s sense of stewardship for the plants and animals within it.

Three

Among those plants and animals are people, which are surely also part of nature. As children learn to treat the world around them with respect and care, so they will also treat each other. Caring for each other is an important part of any community. The more able children are to act with kindness, the more successful and happy they will become. As James Boswell once wrote, “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over. So in a series of acts of kindness there is, at last, one which makes the heart run over.”

Here are a few ways to teach empathy and kindness at home:
1. Create a secure attachment relationship between child and caregiver: This means showing empathy to your child and comforting them during times of distress. While it seems like simple parenting, about two-thirds of American children have a secure attachment to their caregiver; the one-third who do not have this security have decreased academic and social competency. Empathy comes from being empathized with.
2. Be a good example: Model the behavior that you would like them to have.
3. Help children to recognize their own feelings: Helping your child to learn what they are feeling and express it will help them to better communicate their feelings with others
4. Take care of others: Giving a child the opportunity to nurture a pet or a garden will help develop empathy.
5. Perform random acts of kindness: Performing acts of kindness as a family is a great way to build connections with the community and among yourselves.
6. Spend time in nature: Not only does time in nature boost cognitive skills, but it also allows children to develop a sense of place.

For more activities, check out the Humane Society’s The Empathy Connection.
Learn more about pro-social behavior in schools from Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, at This American Life.

The above photos were taken by Science Education Staff and interns.

September 26, 2013

From the Ground Up: Museums Connect!

by Melissa Harding

phipps high school outreach underserved science education

“A place is a piece of the whole environment that has been claimed by feelings. Viewed simply as a life-support system, the earth is an environment. Viewed as a resource that sustains our humanity, the earth is a collection of places. We never speak, for example, of an environment we have known; it is always places we have known – and recall. We are homesick for places, we are reminded of places, it is the sounds and smells and sights of places which haunt us and against which we often measure our present.”
– Alan Gussow, American artist, teacher and conservationist

This fall, we are embarking on an exciting journey that explores the power of place –  the effect of place on our cultures, our food, our language.

As part of the Museums Connect program, made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, Phipps is partnering with the Gidan Makama Museums in Kano, Nigeria to provide an immersive experience for 15 local high school students in each city. Participating students will learn about nutrition, cooking and cultural food traditions by following local food from farm to table. They will be communicating with their partner institution and trying together to understand similarities and differences between American and Nigerian culture. This project will last from September to June, resulting in the creation of a community cookbook that will be designed and created by participating students; recipes in the book will represent all students in the group and share what they have learned. Additionally, students at Phipps will be hosting a community feast this spring to coincide with a visit from the Nigerian students.

Check out this video of the kids introducing themselves; this is their first communication with the Nigerian students:

To help them in creating their cookbook, students will meet each month for a Saturday workshop. Each workshop will involve activities designed to get them thinking critically about their food system and food culture. They will be planning and planting an edible garden at Phipps, cooking together, taking field trips to urban farms, and exploring ideas of sustainability and social justice through food. This program also has homework; students will be asked to use a different prompt each month to write a journal of their journey through the program, as well as to help them start collecting recipes for their book.

Our first monthly meeting was held last Saturday. Students began their day by getting better acquainted with each other and Phipps. They interviewed each other to both learn more about their group mates and to create a set of profiles to send to their Nigerian counterparts. They also spent some time journaling and cooking together; students made salsa using fresh vegetables from the gardens at Phipps and talked about the power of eating together to create community.

In the next few months, they will travel to Braddock Farms, a local urban farm worked by area teens, and cook together with Slow Food Pittsburgh. We can’t wait to learn along with these wonderful students – not only are they giving up their busy weekends to work with us, but their enthusiasm is amazing! We will share their journey, along with ours, every month. We will also ask you for your own thoughts about food and culture, here and on our Facebook page. Please share your insights with us!

Do you think that your own sense of place affects your food culture? Share your answers in the comments!

The above photo was taken by Cory Doman; the videos were taken by Hanna Mosca and Kate Borger.

July 16, 2013

The Importance of Kindness: Teaching Empathy Through Interaction with Nature

by Melissa Harding

Summer Reruns: Just like your favorite television shows go on hiatus for the summer, so does the blog. We will be running eighteen summer camps in eight weeks, so we will be a little busy! In place of original posts, Tuesdays will now feature some of the blog’s most popular posts from the last year. Fridays will feature that week’s camps, with pictures, crafts and lesson ideas for parents and educators.

Phipps Science Education_ Butterflies (3)

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
– Henry James

Everyone wants to be liked.  There is an inherent human need to feel like an accepted member of a group. That is why many of us join clubs and professional organizations. We all feel our best when we think we are liked for who we are; it makes us happy. However, if the number of books on happiness research are any indication, we are all striving to be happier. This can be especially difficult for children, who are learning to navigate the social landscape as they go. Fortunately, there is new research from the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University that suggests the best way for children to feel liked and accepted by their peers, to feel happy, is through practicing kindness.

A sense of empathy, or the ability to put oneself into the shoes of another, is the basis for kindness; if a person is empathetic, he is able to read a situation and put the needs of others above his own. Prompting people to engage in pro-social behaviors, such as helping others, increases feelings of well-being; conversely, people who are happy are much more likely to help others. In an experiment conducted in 19 classrooms in Vancouver, 9- to 11-year olds were instructed to perform three acts of kindness per week over the course of 4 weeks. A control group of students was asked to visit three places in the same time frame. Students in both groups showed improved feelings of well-being, but students who performed acts of kindness experienced greater peer acceptance than students from the control group. In essence, those students who were kinder and more empathetic to others were more popular and well-liked.

With the high incidence of bullying in schools, as well as spikes in depression and anxiety in students, this is an idea worth considering. Peer acceptance is an important goal, as it increases a sense of well-being. Empathy is not only an essential social skill, but an academic one; research shows that successful learners are not only knowledgeable, but also empathetic. Successful students not only exceed in the classroom, but in the community. The ability to be empathetic is found naturally in all of us, but requires nurturing to be properly developed. One way to teach these skills is through engagement with nature.

IMG_1235

Children often have a natural affinity with the natural world, especially animals.  Animals are a constant source of wonder for children, baby animals in particular; children naturally feel emotionally invested in animals. This fact is well-known in the medical community; there are a growing number of pet and equine therapy programs for children who are the victims of abuse or who have mental illness. Owning a pet, volunteering at an animal shelter or caring for a class pet are all ways that children can bond directly with animals. The bond that forms between child and animal has been shown to increase social competence and sense of well-being. As a child cares for and nurtures an animal, he or she develops a sense of empathy, which in turn promotes pro-social behaviors towards other people.

Another way to create a sense of empathy is through creating a sense of place. Whether it is a backyard or a local park, allowing children the time and freedom to explore, play in and care for a green space will create an affinity with the area. Research shows that those children with a sense of place are also more likely to turn their love of one place into a love for all of nature; this creates a sense of empathy with the natural world. Even caring for plants, for instance in the form of gardening, is beneficial. Spending time outside with trusted adults and watching them demonstrate their own care for nature helps to form a child’s sense of stewardship for the plants and animals within it.

Three

Among those plants and animals are people, which are surely also part of nature. As children learn to treat the world around them with respect and care, so they will also treat each other. Caring for each other is an important part of any community. The more able children are to act with kindness, the more successful and happy they will become. As James Boswell once wrote, “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over. So in a series of acts of kindness there is, at last, one which makes the heart run over.”

Here are a few ways to teach empathy and kindness at home:
1. Create a secure attachment relationship between child and caregiver: This means showing empathy to your child and comforting them during times of distress. While it seems like simple parenting, about two-thirds of American children have a secure attachment to their caregiver; the one-third who do not have this security have decreased academic and social competency. Empathy comes from being empathized with.
2. Be a good example: Model the behavior that you would like them to have.
3. Help children to recognize their own feelings: Helping your child to learn what they are feeling and express it will help them to better communicate their feelings with others
4. Take care of others: Giving a child the opportunity to nurture a pet or a garden will help develop empathy.
5. Perform random acts of kindness: Performing acts of kindness as a family is a great way to build connections with the community and among yourselves.
6. Spend time in nature: Not only does time in nature boost cognitive skills, but it also allows children to develop a sense of place.

For more activities, check out the Humane Society’s The Empathy Connection.
Learn more about pro-social behavior in schools from Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, at This American Life.

The above photos were taken by Christie Lawry, Julia Petruska and Melissa Harding.

February 5, 2013

The Importance of Kindness: Teaching Empathy Through Interaction with Nature

by Melissa Harding

Phipps Science Education_ Butterflies (3)

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
– Henry James

Everyone wants to be liked.  There is an inherent human need to feel like an accepted member of a group. That is why many of us join clubs and professional organizations. We all feel our best when we think we are liked for who we are; it makes us happy. However, if the number of books on happiness research are any indication, we are all striving to be happier. This can be especially difficult for children, who are learning to navigate the social landscape as they go. Fortunately, there is new research from the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University that suggests the best way for children to feel liked and accepted by their peers, to feel happy, is through practicing kindness.

A sense of empathy, or the ability to put oneself into the shoes of another, is the basis for kindness; if a person is empathetic, he is able to read a situation and put the needs of others above his own. Prompting people to engage in pro-social behaviors, such as helping others, increases feelings of well-being; conversely, people who are happy are much more likely to help others. In an experiment conducted in 19 classrooms in Vancouver, 9- to 11-year olds were instructed to perform three acts of kindness per week over the course of 4 weeks. A control group of students was asked to visit three places in the same time frame. Students in both groups showed improved feelings of well-being, but students who performed acts of kindness experienced greater peer acceptance than students from the control group. In essence, those students who were kinder and more empathetic to others were more popular and well-liked.

With the high incidence of bullying in schools, as well as spikes in depression and anxiety in students, this is an idea worth considering. Peer acceptance is an important goal, as it increases a sense of well-being. Empathy is not only an essential social skill, but an academic one; research shows that successful learners are not only knowledgeable, but also empathetic. Successful students not only exceed in the classroom, but in the community. The ability to be empathetic is found naturally in all of us, but requires nurturing to be properly developed. One way to teach these skills is through engagement with nature.

IMG_1235

Children often have a natural affinity with the natural world, especially animals.  Animals are a constant source of wonder for children, baby animals in particular; children naturally feel emotionally invested in animals. This fact is well-known in the medical community; there are a growing number of pet and equine therapy programs for children who are the victims of abuse or who have mental illness. Owning a pet, volunteering at an animal shelter or caring for a class pet are all ways that children can bond directly with animals. The bond that forms between child and animal has been shown to increase social competence and sense of well-being. As a child cares for and nurtures an animal, he or she develops a sense of empathy, which in turn promotes pro-social behaviors towards other people.

Another way to create a sense of empathy is through creating a sense of place. Whether it is a backyard or a local park, allowing children the time and freedom to explore, play in and care for a green space will create an affinity with the area. Research shows that those children with a sense of place are also more likely to turn their love of one place into a love for all of nature; this creates a sense of empathy with the natural world. Even caring for plants, for instance in the form of gardening, is beneficial. Spending time outside with trusted adults and watching them demonstrate their own care for nature helps to form a child’s sense of stewardship for the plants and animals within it.

Three

Among those plants and animals are people, which are surely also part of nature. As children learn to treat the world around them with respect and care, so they will also treat each other. Caring for each other is an important part of any community. The more able children are to act with kindness, the more successful and happy they will become. As James Boswell once wrote, “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over. So in a series of acts of kindness there is, at last, one which makes the heart run over.”

Here are a few ways to teach empathy and kindness at home:
1. Create a secure attachment relationship between child and caregiver: This means showing empathy to your child and comforting them during times of distress. While it seems like simple parenting, about two-thirds of American children have a secure attachment to their caregiver; the one-third who do not have this security have decreased academic and social competency. Empathy comes from being empathized with.
2. Be a good example: Model the behavior that you would like them to have.
3. Help children to recognize their own feelings: Helping your child to learn what they are feeling and express it will help them to better communicate their feelings with others
4. Take care of others: Giving a child the opportunity to nurture a pet or a garden will help develop empathy.
5. Perform random acts of kindness: Performing acts of kindness as a family is a great way to build connections with the community and among yourselves.
6. Spend time in nature: Not only does time in nature boost cognitive skills, but it also allows children to develop a sense of place.

For more activities, check out the Humane Society’s The Empathy Connection.
Learn more about pro-social behavior in schools from Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, at This American Life.

The above photos were taken by Christie Lawry, Julia Petruska and Melissa Harding.

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