Start Empathy

Powered by ASHOKA

Empathy in Action

At Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School, students design their own projects for social change.

By Laura White

In May 2012, Laura graduated from Tulane University with a B.A. in Political Economy. While at Tulane, Laura brought her Youth Venture project, Swim 4 Success, to New Orleans, LA, and was a founding member of Tulane’s Ashoka U Changemaker Campus team. As a member of the Empathy Initiative, Laura manages the Changemaker Schools network, a group of schools that have given empathy as much priority as math and literacy. Laura is passionate about changemaker education, empathy, and transforming early childhood education.

November 26, 2012

“Welcome to Tuesday and the school’s Changemaker Day!” read the whiteboard in Mr. Frazell’s third grade classroom. It was a beautiful morning, and Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School’s inaugural Changemaker Day was about to begin. Throughout the day, students across the grade levels at Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS would be putting the changemaker projects they designed as a class into action. In Mr. Frazell’s third grade, students decided to foster a culture of kindness by creating posters to inspire other students and teachers in the school.

As the students sat in a circle, I watched Mr. Frazell prompt his students to brainstorm words that the posters should use. All of the students had a word to contribute to the list, which included words and phrases such as:

  • Are you okay?
  • Hi, would you like to play?
  • Sure, I will help you.

The first of many Changemaker Day projects to come over the next few months, Mr. Frazell’s third grade class expressed much joy in making their school a better place. 

Load More

This joyful introduction to changemaking at a young change was the most exciting part of Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS’s Changemaker Day. Teachers skillfully introduced changemaking to students in developmentally appropriate ways. Master teachers guided their elementary school students through a process of identifying problems that they saw in their school and encouraged them to work together to devise solutions. The problems and solutions looked different among the grades, but all students had the opportunity to work in teams, practice empathic leadership, and take initiative to improve their classroom, their school, or the surrounding community.

Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS is not stopping with one Changemaker Day this year. Indeed, Changemaker Day will be a monthly event, giving students the opportunity to grow as changemakers and produce increasingly sophisticated projects. So when the Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS 4th graders graduate this year or when the rest of the student body advances to the next grade level, they will leave with the beginnings of a skillset that will allow them to succeed in a rapidly changing world.