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A Novel Way to Approach Empathy

“Snail mail” has been traveling between the Siesta Key Campus and the Uihlein Campus as Out-of-Door Lower School and Middle School students collaborated in the Pen Pal Letters Project. The annual assignment pairs up 5th and 6th graders who write letters to their partners to share their thoughts and ideas about assigned novels they read in class with a common theme.
This year, students’ novels focused on the topic of empathy. The 5th grade read “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, and 6th graders were assigned “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” by Dusti Bowling. Both books feature main characters who deal with physical deformations–August in “Wonder” has Treacher Collins Syndrome and Aven in “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” does not have arms.

As both groups of students worked their way through the novels, they discussed their reactions to these stories through hand-written letters. In addition to their reactions to the books, the pen pals also shared examples of how they’ve shown empathy towards others in their own lives.

The culminating activity of the project was a visit from the 6th graders to the Siesta Key Campus. The Middle Schoolers visited with their 5th grade partners and competed in an exciting Escape Room-type challenge. The success of the activity required the 5th and 6th graders to work together to crack a code using what they knew about the plot events in the two novels.
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The Out-of-Door Academy

LOWER SCHOOL |  Historic Siesta Key Campus  |  Pre-K – Grade 5
444 Reid Street, Sarasota, FL 34242  |  941-349-3223  |  Fax: 941-349-8133

MIDDLE & UPPER SCHOOLS
  |  Uihlein Campus in Lakewood Ranch  |  Grades 6 – 8 |  Grades 9 – 12
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