Right now, many of us are living in a place of transition. After almost a year trapped indoors, the Coronavirus appears to finally be receding. Movie theaters have opened their doors. Businesses are slowly returning employees to the office. Even gyms have loosened their restrictions.
While there is still anxiety surrounding new COVID variants, it feels as though life is slowly getting back to normal. Except, in some ways it’s not. The mental and emotional toll of the pandemic will take much longer to dissipate than the virus. As we prepare for the fall, educators need to be mindful of students’ social-emotional health. It’s probable that building connection and empathy will be harder after the rollercoaster that was 2020.
If we’re going to help our students grow into emotionally healthy individuals this year, we’ll need to use every tool at our disposal. And as it happens, project-based learning may be just what the doctor ordered. PBL is unique in that it encourages students to reach out – both to their teachers and their peers. By working together, students can learn about subjects like math and science while also making an impact on issues that matter. When PBL is personal to students, it can provide more than just content knowledge—it can also foster a sense of hope and cement important connections.
Here are just a few projects that can help your student practice healthy empathy.
Blue Apple Projects
- Lend a Hand: In Lend a Hand, students work together to plan a fundraiser for a life-changing microloan. This includes handing their ideas over to others and building upon the suggestions shared by their peers. This can be a difficult process for students but offers them a unique way to explicitly learn about relationships skills and empathy. Plus, they’re able to provide valuable assistance to someone in need!
- Take a Stand: How do we disagree without being disagreeable? In Take a Stand, students learn to be aware of and to manage their own tendencies when it comes to thinking like a scout or a soldier. It also allows them the chance to explore why we sometimes have trouble accepting other viewpoints. When we remind ourselves to step back and look at an issue like a scout instead of a soldier, we’re able to build a healthier, more empathetic mindset.
- Prevent the Spread: The past year has certainly taught us all a lot about healthy living, but Prevent the Spread still has some lessons to share. By learning about the spread of germs, students will come to see the importance of considering others and understand that their actions have consequences. What’s more, they’ll collaborate to create a fun, informative public service announcement that they can share with their community.
- Moments to Remember: Collaboration skills are critical in the building empathy, but we rarely take time to teach them explicitly. In Moments to Remember, students work with a Senior friend to create a book about their life experiences. This gives students a chance to explore relationship skills and social awareness as they prepare for conversations with senior citizens. They’ll also see that older generations have much to teach us – if we’re prepared to listen!
In This Together
These are just a few of the powerful PBL experiences students can explore this fall. By giving students the opportunity to invest in their own learning, while working together with peers, we don’t just open them to innovation and energy. We also give them a chance to express all those pent-up feelings they’ve been carrying for a year. When channeled correctly, these emotions can fuel their drive to learn, and lead the way to a better, healthier tomorrow!