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Activities that Exercise Empathy

How Students Can Practice Curiosity and Compassion with The Extraordinaires®

designers will have to get The Board to empathize with the plight of their client by preparing clear arguments supporting the need for their design

Here are four classroom activities that teachers can use with students and The Extraordinaires® character cards in active learning environments. Each one is perfectly suited as a standalone exercise in empathy or as a precursor to an Extraordinaire's Design Challenge.

Advocate for an Extraordinaire

One group of students becomes “The Board” and the remaining students, as individuals or in pairs, become advocates for an Extraordinaire. While an Extraordinaires Design Challenge is in its early stages, designers must come before The Board to “secure funding” for their creation. In order to gain The Board’s approval, designers will have to get The Board to empathize with the plight of their client by preparing clear arguments supporting the need for their design while predicting what counterclaims might be required to defend against any opposition. If The Board declines a design, its members must give recommendations for improvement and invite the designers to try again.

Create a Social Media Page for an Extraordinaire

Students are “hired” to build the perfect social media page for an Extraordinaire. In teams, students review and discuss the life and world of an Extraordinaire whose shared card is chosen or randomly assigned to them. They then make determinations together about the wants and needs of the character. The social media page must accomplish three things for the Extraordinaire: 1) make new friends with similar interests, 2) share a professional or personal accomplishment, and 3) express an opinion about an issue that causes the Extraordinaire particular concern. The social media page can be drawn by hand or created digitally.

Roleplay an Extraordinaire

After being given an Extraordinaire’s character card, each student creates a set of five or more questions that they would like to ask the Extraordinaire to better understand that character’s needs. Then, in pairs or small groups, students exchange their assigned Extraordinaire with each other. After spending time reviewing both sides of the card, the new holder of the card “becomes” the Extraordinaire, taking on his, her, or its persona. The first student uses the set of questions to interview the student who is roleplaying the Extraordinaire. The answers are noted, and, afterwards, students should discuss the interview, comparing and contrasting their notions of the Extraordinaire’s perspective.

Write a Letter in an Extraordinaire’s Voice

Taking on the point of view of an Extraordinaire, students write a letter in the first-person from that Extraordinaire to another one. (The students need only become “experts” in the life of the Extraordinaire that they have selected.) In the letter, students must 1) share some details about how everyday life has been going for the Extraordinaire, 2) express a wish for something that could make everyday life easier, and 3) capture the particular persona of the Extraordinaire through their thoughtful language and writing style choices. After writing the letters, students will give one another feedback in pairs before presenting the letter to the entire class.