Creating a Compassionate Curriculum
Integrating social-global learning into the art curriculum is critical to shaping an informed citizen and a twenty-first-century learner.
Nurturing global citizens can start
in the art classroom. The following
resources can help you initiate social
change through reflective student
artwork at your school and in your
community, or even touch the lives of
parallel situations in their own lives.
Ask students to remake the film’s
ending through illustrations of compassionate behavior.
Start the Discussion
The popular PBS Series Art: 21 (www.
pbs.org/art21) offers a glimpse of
contemporary artists’ methods and
sources of inspiration. Most recently,
Season 5: Compassion, featuring
artists Carrie Mae Weems, William
Kentridge, and Doris Salcedo, highlights how visual art addresses social
change. Access the free educator guide
and video clips on exploring compassion directly on the website. (
SchoolArts will be focusing on many of the
Art: 21 artists this year.)
A personal favorite multimedia
resource is the Pixar short “For the
This three-minute animation cleverly
illustrates how the bullying actions
of one can impact the behavior of an
entire group. Download this video
from iTunes and let your students find
Take Action with Compassion
Empower students to make a difference in the lives of others around the
world. Teaching Tolerance (www.
tolerance.org) has a great collection of classroom activities designed
to help you build lessons on empathy
and compassion. Another option is to
collect money for a charitable organization. Something as small as a penny
will help buy a pencil for a child in
Pakistan and Afghanistan through
Pennies for Peace (
There is no need to reinvent the
wheel when other educators are
already reaching out to local or
global communities successfully. For
example, Volunteer Villages, an organization to help flood victims (www.
their compassionate effort after Haiti
Houses, an artistic service project that
benefits earthquake victims (www.
You can also take compassionate
action though design. In contrast to
negative propaganda seen throughout
history, you can create a lesson that
has students designing a logo for a
just cause. Seek inspiration from the
Design for Good blog (
blogs/design-for-good) or from The
com), a company dedicated to sustainable practices. These resources
emphasize the use of contemporary
design to help improve the lives of
others around the world.
Share the Compassion Online
Finally, the My Hero Project
lets you upload images of student art-
work inspired by someone who gave
back to humanity. Take a look at the
“Hero Gallery,” which exhibits work
from artists and students of all ages.
The artwork focuses on historical or
contemporary figures who promote
compassion and social change.
Theresa McGee is an elementary art educator in Hinsdale, Illinois and writes an
art education blog ( teachingpalette.com).