Art has the power to soothe, to heal, to empower, to raise awareness and to move people to action. Using technology to enable people to express themselves through art is great, whether it’s for a cause, or a brand in this case.
To raise awareness for their brand, an art supply company created this viral campaign featuring real people using technology to create beautiful abstract art. Sixteen disabled individuals in China (home to the world’s largest disabled population) were invited to participate in the project, which involved using advanced brainwave scanning technology in conjunction with detonator-equipped, paint-filled balloons. The video seems to show that by concentrating really hard, the participants were able to trigger the colorful explosions, resulting in some very unique pieces.
When you think of our everyday endeavors and going through life as adults, we’re not really encouraged to be playful. But when we play games, we relax and become more receptive and less judgmental. Games trigger our creative juices—through solving problems, navigating complex systems and managing resources. They present us with hard problems; like solving a puzzle or defeating a boss. As players we need to be creative and come up with good ideas to solve those problems. They make us more playful in our way of being and experiencing life. Best of all, games bring us together. Go ahead, organize an office recess and create your own game—and use the toolkit at the link to help get you started.
How does empathy and social learning improve the learning experience at schools? A lot, apparently! And some research is finding that actively teaching empathy and social understanding can be taught in a public school setting, with great benefits for the entire learning process:
At a time of contentious debate over how to reform schools to make teachers more effective and students more successful, “social emotional learning” may be a key part of the solution. An outgrowth of the emotional intelligence framework, popularized by Daniel Goleman, SEL teaches children how to identify and manage emotions and interactions. One of the central considerations of an evolved EQ—as proponents call an “emotional quotient”—is promoting empathy, a critical and often neglected quality in our increasingly interconnected, multicultural world.
Brackett quickly learned that developing empathy in kids requires working on their teachers first. Ten years ago, he and his colleagues introduced a curriculum about emotions in schools, asking teachers to implement it in their own classrooms. When he observed the lessons, he was struck by the discomfort many of the instructors showed in talking about emotion. “There was one teacher who took the list of feelings we had provided and crossed out all of what she perceived of as ‘negative’ emotions before asking the students to identify what they were feeling,” Brackett says. “We realized that if the teachers didn’t get it, the kids never would.”
So in 2005, Brackett and his team at the Health, Emotion, and Behavior Lab at Yale developed a training program—now called RULER—that instructs teachers in the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for emotional health, then helps them shift the focus to children. The program focuses on five key skills: recognizing emotions in oneself and others, understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, labeling the full range of emotions, expressing emotions appropriately in different contexts, and regulating emotions effectively to foster relationships and achieve goals. Classrooms adopt “emotional literacy charters”—agreements that the whole community agrees to concerning interpersonal interactions—and kids use “mood meters” to identify the nature and intensity of their feelings and “blueprints” to chart out past experiences they might learn from.
This brought up several reactions for me. For one thing, I hated middle school. I was teased for being a smarty pants with the wrong clothes, scolded by my teachers for being too bossy, and became convinced I wasn’t good at Math. Later on, as I grew up and eventually made it out into the “real world,” I realized that I had a “classic” fashion sense, my “bossiness” came in handy when working with contractors and employees, and I was good at Math if I didn’t let my phobia get the best of me. Rather than learning a great deal about the world, I feel like I forgot a lot of important lessons during middle school. If anything, I wish there were things I could go back and tell my middle school me not to worry about, or worry more about them.
That is not the case for everyone, though. Some people had great experiences in middle school, and felt like they grew as individuals and started to become truly who they were meant to be. Middle school was enriching for them, a good experience.
And to be fair, middle school wasn’t all bad. Middle school is the place of first crushes, first dances, joining sports teams, finding your passion, breaking free from your parents a little bit, meeting new people, starting to be taken seriously adults, but still getting to be a kid and have time to play.
What are some of your lessons from middle school? Were they good, bad? How did those experiences enrich your life, or how did they make them worse? What is one thing or rule you learned in middle school that you wish you still followed, or what is one rule you wish you could forget?
I had a great vacation – I got out into nature, I slept in (some mornings when I wasn’t out looking for wildlife), and I even read a little bit. Turns out the reading was good for me in more ways than one; reading is not only relaxing, some studies find it improves empathy:
Shira Gabriel and Ariana Young, both from the psychology department at the University of Buffalo, gave 140 undergraduate students passages to read from either the Harry Potter series or the Twilight series. Afterward, the students were asked how much they related to the characters in the novels. Gabriel and Young found that despite the fact that both the stories rely heavily on otherworldly magic and mysticism, the undergrads felt a real affinity for the characters. “[T]he study found that participants who read the Harry Potter chapters self-identified as wizards, whereas participants who read the Twilight chapter self-identified as vampires,” they wrote. ”
And “belonging” to these fictional communities actually provided the same mood and life satisfaction people get from affiliations with real-life groups. Books provide the opportunity for social connection and the blissful calm that comes from becoming a part of something larger than oneself for a precious, fleeting moment.”
Raymond Mar, a professor at York University, has also noticed the link between reading and empathy. In a study of children, Mar found that the more a child reads, the likelier she is to be able to understand the emotions of others.