Teaching Kids to Care
In Denmark, a country that is consistently ranked as one of the "world's happiest," schools prioritize teaching empathy and consider it as important as teaching math and literature - and it all starts with a piece of cake.
From their very first day of school until they graduate from high school, Danish kids spend an hour every week on “Klassens Time” or the “Class Hour.” Kids take turns bringing in a cake or another treat for the class to share. While they eat it, the students gather to talk about problems they’re having and, together, the class discusses possible solutions.
“The important thing is that everyone is heard,” says Jesper Vang, a middle school teacher in Odense. “Our job as the teacher is to make sure that the children understand how the other feels, and see why the other feels as they do. This way, we come up with a solution together based on real listening and real understanding.”
Research has found that empathy appears to be innate in children but the degree to which it develops depends on how it is cultivated over time.