Building Empathy for All

By Kristina Hulvershorn

‘Be the Change’ has been open to the public for a little over 5 months now in Indianapolis.  As the first humane education museum of its kind, we have been eager to assess how much of an impact it is having on participants.  It has been a joy to witness groups and individuals learn, pause, and reflect on animal, environmental, and social issues that are new to them.  Some of our favorite quotes in the last few weeks have been:

“I just spent 3 hours going through ‘Be the Change’. I think I had chills the whole time.”

“I feel like I need to rethink everything.  I don’t know what to make for dinner now!”

 “Animals deserve everything humans deserve!”

By creating playful and interactive stations, visitors are more open and curious about the topics involved.  In short, it is working!  We are seeing that we can successfully reach a broad audience and inspire critical thinking and compassion.  One of the activities that is a favorite of the students is the “Empathy Theatre” where participants are asked to put themselves in someone else’s shoes -from a squirrel to a migrant farm worker, a child laborer to a chicken.  We often even get puppets involved and ask questions like:

Empathy Card

This simple activity can be a game changer for people who have never stopped to think about what the world might look like from someone else’s perspective.  One of the facilitators, Jay Horan, who worked with some of the groups who visited this summer explained, “It’s interesting how easy it is for kids to take empathy that grown-ups usually reserve for humans and apply it to animals.  The transition is seamless for kids.  There is no thinking twice about it…they just get it.  If we can harness that, it is something that they can take into adulthood.”

Participants imagining what it would like to be a pig, cow, dog, and owl in our “Empathy Theatre”.
Participants imagining what it would like to be a pig, cow, dog, and owl in our “Empathy Theatre”.

If you’d like to learn more about ‘Be the Change’ please check out: http://peacelearningcenter.org/be-the-change or email Kristina@teachhumane.org.

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