IGNITE Summer 2019 | Page 14

WHERE EMPATHY MEETS ENGINEERING This school-wide initiative bridges classes and countries to encourage compassion for all. What does empathy look like? At Mary, Mother of the into the world that they will help create.” Redeemer Catholic School in North Wales, it depends who you ask. STARTING ENGINEERING EARLIER When introducing the design process, the teachers For first graders, it might mean encouraging a classmate who’s struggling to build a Chinese paper lantern. knew the school’s younger students might take the word “brainstorm” too literally. So they simplified the phrase — For fifth graders, it could be participating in an exercise they’d “think up” ideas. Before long, students picked up that demonstrates world hunger. For sixth graders, it the lingo, discussing hypotheses, processes, and estimates. might look like helping a kindergartener build a “It really brings a smile to your face to hear them use this miniature windmill. vocabulary,” Bull says. The idea is that empathy is for everyone. And for seventh Classes gathered in the school’s Innovation Lab to iterate grade teacher Lisa Bull, kindness was the inspiration solutions to design challenges, ranging from country- for a school-wide initiative that explores and celebrates specific goals (for instance, building the Great Wall of the world’s cultures through hands-on engineering China with blocks) to UN Sustainable Development Goals challenges. Sixth graders worked with kindergarteners. (such as promoting clean water). Younger and older Prayer partners turned into collaborators. And science, grades joined forces to encourage collaboration — and to technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math came overcome the fear of failure. together in a real, tangible way. “Although a lot of people shy away from failure, our goal “We were looking for students to build empathy and create something new by using the design process,” Bull says. “These are real skills that will help students move forward 14 here is to let students know that in failing, we’re actually learning,” Bull says.