Developing Empathy and Social Responsibility in Young Children

Social responsibility begins with the understanding that our individual and institutional actions impact our community

At St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School, social responsibility includes the intersection of our service learning; diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) work, and environmental sustainability. We believe that social responsibility begins with the understanding that our individual and institutional actions impact our community.   The concept of social responsibility is firmly rooted in St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes’ Episcopal identity as we strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. At the Lower School, this work begins with the concept of empathy.

In 2017, the Lower School launched the Saints Explore Empathy initiative. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday and beyond, Lower School Saints explore empathy and reflect upon the work and legacy of Dr. King. Throughout his life, Dr. King served others with his words and through his actions. He embodied the concept of social responsibility, which acknowledges “accountability for the impact of one’s choices on the larger world.”

Lower School Saints are encouraged to think about how they can answer Dr. King’s call to service and what they can do for others. In support of this important work, we will host Jahkil Jackson, a young changemaker. In preparation for this visit, we invite our students, faculty, and families to participate in the 30 Kindness Challenge and share small acts of kindness with others and our community.  

Big picture
Our Lower School students brainstormed ideas for small acts of kindness to be included in the 30 Days of Kindness Challenge. We are asking our families to offer small acts of kindness throughout the next 30 days and beyond. This community engagement allows our students to practice empathy and inclusion while ensuring that each member of the Saints community can find here a place they can be exactly who they are.
Building on that idea, we started a Saints Share Stories storytelling program. For example, an upcoming event, centers around stories of Black joy and excellence as part of our recognition of Black History Month. Saints Share Stories is directly connected to the SSSAS enduring understandings of social responsibility, specifically that Saints can understand and learn about experiences that may be different from their own through stories. Our storytellers for this event include Ada Ari, a local children's author who preserves African heritage and legacy through folktales; Vaughn Ambrose, Middle School Performing Arts Teacher; and Mrs. Spain-Thomas, Lower School Director.
Jahkil Jackson teen changemaker
Another way to support this work is through our X-days, which are whole days dedicated to exploring a specific topic. Our next X-day will be on February 25th and our focus is on empathy and community. A highlight of this day is a visit from teen changemaker, activist, and author Jahkil Jackson, who will talk with Lower School Saints about what it means to be a changemaker and how we can help our community.  Jahkil will share his book I Am with children in grades JK to third.  He will also meet with the fourth and fifth grades to share his journey as a changemaker. Finally, students will fill “Blessing Bags” for a community service project, which will be shared with our local community partners including ALIVE
Read More About How   Saints Are Creating Positive   Change Through Service

Topics: Kindergarten, Environmental Stewardship, service, Goodness as Well as Knowledge, Lower School, student learning

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