What is the Empathy Pawject
To feel empathy for another human or animal, is the starting point of acceptance and love. While studying in my undergrad, I spent time volunteering with children in the pediatric ward at the Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick. I learned there that although I knew what empathy was, you had to experience putting yourself in someone’s place, even if you had never gone through the same situation, to fully understand empathy. Once I moved to Calgary I began volunteering at the Calgary Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center. I was basically a wildlife ambulance driver, picking up injured animals and taking them to a center where a vet and other volunteers would care for them. I have always had a love of animals and was taught at a young age to respect all living creatures, but this volunteer position helped me understand how to feel empathy for someone else even if they couldn’t communicate their feelings to me. This experience made me think of ways I could possibly create a service learning program where my students would use their knowledge of compassion and kindness to build a connection with and to help real animals.
In this project, students receive a profile of a real dog in a real shelter. They will learn about their dog and discover that, like humans, dogs are very unique with their own set of likes and dislikes, quirks and wonderfully individual personalities. They present information about and paint a portrait of their adoptable dog. They write letters to their dogs and raise awareness for them by allowing me to post their work to the Instagram page @empathy.pawject, where a geotag tying that dog to its corresponding shelter is used as well as a series of hashtags and account tags to help gain attention for the dog. Through a series of empathy based and art based lessons, students learn what empathy means, how it differs from its sister words compassion, sympathy and pity, and the importance of treating all living creatures with kindness.
This program aligns with values I seek to instill in my students, empathy and a deeper connection to people and animals no matter how they differ from ourselves. The hope is that this will carry with them throughout their lives as future leaders. I began looking into ‘art and empathy’ as a starting point. Through research I have discovered great and intimate ties between art and empathy. I have attached those articles and books into the resource section of this website in hopes that other art educators are inspired to research and ultimately do this work
To provide a foundation of empathy and creativity to all of our students through the combination of art and the well-being of real, feeling, rescue animals.
Ms Carruthers and Willow
Meet Ms. Carruthers
Ms Carruthers has been involved in art her entire life. She attended NSCAD in Halifax, NS then graduated with her BFA from Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. Ms. Carruthers attending the University of Edinburgh, where she attained her PDGE in Primary Education. She is currently completeing her graduate work. She is in her last year of her Masters of Art Education at the University of Victoria. She has taught in Calgary for over 10 years.
I've been completely amazed at the curiosity, creativity and empathy each of our students displays when working on their projects. Their interst in their assigned rescue dogs is truely inspiring!