Five Activities to Help Students Build Empathy Through the Arts

By Miko Lee and Suzanne Joyal, Youth in Arts

The arts are a great way to help students with and without disabilities learn more about their own feelings and the emotions of others. We like combining a visual arts lesson on photography or portraiture with an opportunity to build empathy by making “Emotional Trading Cards,” which feature students expressing their emotions. The activities listed below offer ways to extend the visual art-making experience for students.

1. Look in a mirror: how does a SAD mouth look? What about HAPPY eyes, a SCARED nose, or ANGRY eyebrows? Now try to draw what you see.

2. Draw your face two times showing two different feelings. What is the difference? Did you draw the eyes or the mouths differently? How so?

3. Draw a picture of a time when you were SURPRISED. What happened that surprised you?

4. Draw lines that show FEELINGS: happy, sad, surprised, angry, scared, etc. How does your hand move when you think about things that make you feel each emotion?

5. How does the color RED make you feel? What about ORANGE? YELLOW? BLUE?

 

The Youth in Arts logo, a black square with the letters YiA in red and white.Youth in Arts provides students in the North San Francisco Bay Area with high-quality experiences and instruction in the visual and performing arts, directly serving over 20,000 pre-K–12 students annually. Miko Lee is executive director of Youth in Arts, and Suzanne Joyal is the organization’s visual arts director.

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