Fostering Empathy Through Animal Interactions in the Classroom

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Have you heard the news?! It’s finally time to put the snowsuits and mittens away – spring is here and (hopefully) here to stay! As nature comes back to life, we at Haven are excited to shift our focus to the ideas of growth and change. We believe that an understanding of these ideas on both seasonal and personal levels promotes empathy in our young learners, particularly when they can learn directly from their surroundings. In our classrooms, this means hands-on experience with animals! 

According to author and educator Rachel Larimore, “caring for animals is where we often first notice young children’s empathy skills.” For learners at our Rhode Island location, Eggy, the class guinea pig, has shown that animals, much like people, have different needs which must be answered. They are able to pet, feed, and brush him, fully inhabiting the role of caretaker in the same way that parents and teachers so often do for them. They have learned to share in a quiet environment for this rather shy animal (an impressive feat in a toddler classroom), showing care for another living being. Eggy has been an egg-cellent addition, fostering the development of a complex skill! 

Don’t worry – New Jersey doesn’t miss out on this hands-on experience! Both of our Haven locations hatch chicks during the spring season. Like Eggy, these chicks “help children develop a sense of responsibility and…provide important lessons about the cycle of life” (Care for Kids). From incubation to hatching, our learners are keen to the needs of these young creatures, and their “animal interactions seem to result in a sense of care toward other creatures and the natural environment” (Care for Kids). Such care is our greatest hope for Haven children. Our philosophy is that of Nel Noddings, who wrote that the aim of the classroom should be that its students grow to “live nonviolently with each other, sensitively and in harmony with the natural environment, reflectively and serenely with themselves” (Noddings). 

We’re beyond excited to see how empathy will be extended in these next few months! In the meantime, we hope all of your April showers bring beautiful May flowers. ????



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