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4 Tools to Help Kids Develop Empathy and Cultural Humility

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Humility is not necessarily about modesty or pretending to be less than you are. In fact, people who are humble often have a high sense of self-worth; it's just that they can recognize their own strengths and limitations. Research about humility also suggests a strong connection between being humble and being generous. For kids growing up in a media-driven world that often rewards narcissism, humility has become a way to stand up and stand out, like this valedictorian student who used a secret Instagram profile to sing the praises of his peers.

But there’s a specific aspect of humility that’s especially relevant today: cultural humility. This is when we recognize that we have biases and limitations to our knowledge regarding another’s culture. Whether they are seeking to relate to someone of a different race, age, or gender, kids who can better keep themselves in perspective and practice cultural humility are more likely to value the contributions of others to their lives -- a necessity when fostering truly collaborative, forward-thinking societies.

Check out these picks to help kids reflect on their own views and work toward the welfare of others.

Global Oneness Project

This site showcases multicultural life stories through short videos and photo essays. Kids can view a film about the effects of climate change on a local community or explore an article uncovering a culture on the edge of extinction. Once kids have had a chance to observe experiences outside their everyday reality, challenge them to go out into their own neighborhood, find an unexpected or inspiring story, and create a video that captures their own community in a new light.




With Gapminder, kids can analyze data from interactive, animated charts to compare regions of our planet based on topics like health, fertility, literacy, debt, and more. Have kids try out Dollar Street, a feature that contains photos and information for 264 families across 50 countries -- all sorted by income. Kids can compare their own families to ones across the world who live at the same income level. They’ll get to reflect on everyday life and how it looks similar and different, as well as acknowledge any stereotypes they may have.


Big History Project

This fascinating site looks at science, history, and the meaning of life from a broad lens and ultimately asks questions such as, "Why are we here?" The goal is to step back and look at Earth’s pivotal moments and people from a wider perspective so that the smallest details begin to make more sense. Kids and adults alike will appreciate the opportunity to look beyond themselves, and through discussion with each other, can begin to make predictions about the next transformative event in Earth’s future.


Parable of the Polygons

Through an interactive simulation, Parable of the Polygons stimulates thought around the connection between people’s biases and segregation. Kids drag and drop shapes that represent different racial groups to show how individual choices about where to live can drive others away from diverse neighborhoods. After analyzing the scenarios, the site asks us to challenge our own biases through our actions moving forward. Kids can also reach out and donate to diversity causes like Black Girls Code.

This article’s content is an extension of the We All Teach SEL blog series from Common Sense Education. Check it out for a complete look at social and emotional learning in the classroom.

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