Inspired by a lesson developed for teachers in Wayland Public Schools, this gallery highlights a variety of artworks that support students as they develop empathy by acknowledging others' emotions and experiences.
Description: By utilizing contemporary works of art from the Museum's collections, this lesson is able to help foster the idea of empathy among viewers by demonstrating how such modern pieces of art can be immediately relatable and accessible even if presented in abstract fashion. Every viewer can have a different, yet equally valid, interpretation of one or many facets in each object presented. Other viewers, by sharing their thoughts verbally, can begin to understand how these seemingly different interpretations are able to be synthesized into more general, or universal, themes of understanding; in other words appreciate how empathy can develop when looking at a work of art as a group. Whether attempting to understand emotions that may be conveyed in the works themselves, or understanding the emotions felt by viewers receiving the objects, it is important to be able to share such thoughts as a group in a neutral, yet encouraging fashion.
Learning Goals: By exploring this lesson students will...
- Be able to appreciate contemporary art in immediate and accessible terms; modern art, like all art, can be discussed by anyone and doesn't necessarily require an "insider's" knowledge.
- Understand how shared experiences when viewing art help foster and develop important social skills and connections in other facets of their lives.
Students will be required to...
- Share their thoughts on works of art in a fashion that is constructive and neutral; there are no single interpretations or "right answers" to each work.
- Synthesize how different interpretations may in fact be closely related to a given object (or objects) visually and/or conceptually.
Using this resource: Educators of all subjects and grade levels will be interested in using this lesson as a supplement in helping their students develop the skills necessary to understand, and appreciate, the differences in perspective and experience that their peers may have. This lesson may also be helpful in fostering conversations centered around how a shared experience, viewing works of art, can be applied to other seemingly unrelated activities and academic experiences; in other words the skills used in conversing about art, through Visual Thinking Strategies or otherwise, can be equally useful when talking about matters of science, history, mathematics etc.
A secondary presentation featuring contemporary works by other well known artists is available as a downloadable PDF under Related Resources at the bottom of this page. The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source - or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries - to look for other objects that will provide further insights into developing empathy through the experience of viewing art.