What will the future look like if we give young children more opportunities to practice being empathic innovators and problem solvers?
At its core, engineering is one way that humans design things and solve problems. Being able to exhibit empathy—to take the perspective of another or put yourself in their shoes—is an important facet of engineering. Whether engineers are creating school buildings, medicines, or space shuttles, their designs benefit from thinking carefully about the needs of the people who will use them.
Young children are playful explorers. They learn about their world through touching materials, building with blocks, using tools, and generally showing a natural inclination to engineer. Between the ages of 4 and 6, these young explorers are also beginning to build the foundations for exhibiting empathy. They are beginning to understand why another child might want a turn with a toy, or how their actions could make someone happy or sad.
With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Boston Children’s Museum and Education Development Center|Center for Children and Technology will collaborate with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten educators in the Boston area to co-design activities that integrate engineering and empathy. The Creating Integrated Engineering and Empathy Curriculum for Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten Classrooms project will explore the potential for activities that integrate empathy and engineering to positively impact educators and children.