Teaching Compassion Makes Us Happier, Smarter, and HealthierTEDx Golden Gate Ed Conference Explores Teaching Compassion in Schools
Schools that that provide a healthy learning environment - with natural
daylight, good indoor air quality, healthy food, and outdoor play - and
cultivate emotional intelligence will truly prepare our students not
just for surviving, but for thriving in the 21st century.
The TEDx Golden Gate ED: Teach Compassion Conference was packed full of inspiration, insight, interaction, and delight as participants learned about the new science of compassion, and how compassion helps transform schools and communities.
We already knew that green schools contribute to the health, wellbeing, and achievement of students, but it turns out compassion plays a role in healthy schools as well. And without compassion for the Earth and its creatures, many wouldn't even consider efforts at environmental friendliness.
Organized by Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito and UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, the conference sought to give educators tools for bringing compassion and its benefits into the classroom and school community.
Jeff Duncan-Andrade, a teacher at East Oakland Step, spoke of developing classroom practices and school cultures that foster self-confidence, esteem and academic success among at-risk urban youth. Marc Brackett, Head of the Edward Zigler Center for Child Development and Social Policy, discussed how emotional intelligence impacts quality of life, including mental health, relationships, and academic performance. Mary Gordon, Founder of Roots of Empathy, showcased a program that teaches empathy and emotional literacy to children through classroom visits with infants and their mothers.
Participants enjoyed interactive workshops including one by Green Schools Initiative Executive Director Deborah Moore entitled, "Green Schools: Empowering Students to Take Action and Care for the Earth." To be engaged in hands-on greening, students must discover their compassion for the Earth and its residents. (At left: a decorative "Garbage Globe" made from recycled materials.)
There were also many scientists and researchers studying the brain that acknowledged how compassion is at the root of human happiness, and that we are actually "hardwired for goodness." Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, noted that Darwin's original thesis is better captured by "survival of the kindest" than the phrase promoted and popularized by Herbert Spencer "survival of the fittest." Darwin, in fact, argued that communities of more sympathetic individuals were more successful in raising healthier offspring to the age of maturity - the purpose of evolution.
The multidisciplinary nature of compassion was woven throughout the conference with a variety of musicians performing, artists creating kolam (designs made of rice flour and flower petals symbolizing prosperity and harmony - see example at right), and displays of nature and art made from recycled materials.
Schools that that provide a healthy learning environment - with natural daylight, good indoor air quality, healthy food, and outdoor play - and cultivate emotional intelligence will truly prepare our students not just for surviving, but for thriving in the 21st century.