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Developing Empathy and Understanding

This activity uses the concept of scale to reveal to students how connections may be seen differently at different scales. Scale is not discrete, and to encourage interdependence students can be invited to ‘zoom in’ and ‘out’ of a geographical issue or place.

1. Initial stimulus

Completing the Multiple identities sheet encourages students to consider how their lives can be viewed from different scales and be seen quite differently. Next, students read and are asked to read and think about impact stories such as those found on the Oxfam and Fairtrade Foundation websites.

2. Mediation of geographical understanding

To help them grasp the concept of ‘interdependence’, students explore personal connections. Having read the stories, students complete a ‘Multiple identities’ sheet with Miriam, Vigan, Robert or Michel in the centre.

3. Making sense of the matter

Students use both ‘Multiple identities’ sheets to consider all the ways in which ‘interdependence’ helps them think about their daily lives. They can also look at the similarities and differences with the daily lives of other people, e.g. Miriam.

4. Refining thinking

Here the activity could be developed in relation to, for example, consumption. Considering fair trade requires an understanding of different scales. First, the scale of experience of consumers and producers of, e.g. cotton farming in Benin, and second, the scale of ‘reality’ – the global scale of transnational corporations (in terms of marketing) and purchasing (at the local scale from small producers).

5. Reflection

During the plenary students could discuss how images and stories in geography are partial. We can glimpse into someone else’s place or life, but to empathise with them takes time. Thus, students need rich and detailed information as well as sufficient time to investigate and reflect on it.

Resources and Links

Download the Venn diagram designed to help you plan your ‘Developing Empathy and Understanding’ activities.

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