Empathy Pawject at the Calgary Public Library

Grade 4 Empathy Pawject Art Show at the Calgary Public Library by: Rebecca Carruthers
Posted on 05/11/2022
Empathy Pawject

The grade 4 students at Southeast Elementary have embarked on a special art project called the Empathy Pawject, which is now on display at the Central Library in downtown Calgary. The Empathy Pawject is a service-learning and character education art project focused on humane education to inspire empathy through art.

I created this project while completing my Masters of Education in Art Education at the University of Victoria. While researching empathy and whether or not it can be taught, I had an idea to combine character education with an element of humane education in my art classes with the hopes of inspiring empathy in the learner as well as the audience of their art.

All of the students “adopted” a dog found in one of the shelters in Calgary’s surrounding areas. These shelters include the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS), Garcia Rescue, Pawsitive Match Rescue, Cochrane Humane, Fostering Hope Animal Rescue Foundation, and Paws and Claws Animal Rescue. They received profiles of their dogs complete with an image taken by the volunteers of these shelters, and important information about their dog.

“The goal of this project is to get as many dogs as possible adopted and out of shelters. All dogs deserve to have a home. My favourite part was seeing the volunteers and how much they care for the dogs, especially when they know if the dogs are adopted, they won’t get to see them ever again.” – Empathy Pawject Artist

The Empathy Pawject artists learned about their dog and presented this information to their class. Students participated in empathy-based lessons before starting their painting lessons. Through videos, literature and group discussions, the students learned what empathy is, how we can understand it and evoke it in others. After completing the preliminary sketches of their adopted dog, each student used a canvas to start their portrait drawing classes.  Students learned how to draw a generic dog head and used that base to add the special features that made each dog unique, such as their appearance, age, personality traits and special care requirements. Once the dog portraits had details mapped out, the students learned how to use different painting techniques, brushstrokes, and colour theory to develop a painted portrait of their dog.

These paintings will be on display at the Calgary Public Library until June 22nd.

Empathy Pawject

Here are some quotes about the project from students, parents and shelter volunteers:

"This #Pawject is awakening hearts, spreading awareness about adoptable dogs, teaching art, and enabling empathy in those who will be running the world as we age." – Rachael Rodgers Canmore based photographer who volunteers her time to photograph and help adoptable dogs find loving homes (Instagram: @trailsandbears)

 The Empathy Pawject was a unique way to teach our kids quite a few things. In [my son's] case, he was deeply connected to the story of his dog, Vic. It brought out a lot of emotions in him: empathy, sadness, and hope, to name a few. He showed such concern for the dog’s future to the point of asking us if we knew anyone that lived close to Vic’s shelter that perhaps would want to have him as a member of their family. It was a powerful experience for our young children to be able to connect art with emotion, and inversely, to use art as a way to address emotions. He felt committed to helping Vic get adopted through his art and our social media networks.  Being so passionate about the project, and so committed to helping his dog find its fur-ever home, inspired him to give it his best effort. So much so, that he said to us, ‘I didn’t even know I could paint that well!’ – Student Parent

“Empathy means caring about others and putting yourself in their shoes!” – Empathy Pawject Artist, age 9

More information about this project can be found on www.empathypawject.com and on Instagram @empathy.pawject

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2022 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.