Theater Company Help Students Perform Acts of Empathy

WWV - 4 boy students
Shawnee Mission School District

Through acting, Westwood View students recently worked on setting the scene for a positive environment at school.  

Mirror Image Arts, an educational acting group, recently visited Westwood View and Rising Star Elementary Schools to help students and teachers use theater to discuss and learn more about social-emotional learning concepts.

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The visiting actors performed a variety of exercises with students to help them practice empathy and understanding. Ultimately, the goal of the activities led by the Mirror Image Arts program is to help children play a role in creating safe learning environments where every child feels safe, supported, heard, and seen.

In one activity, an actor portrayed a character who had moved to various schools, faced struggles with her parents, and felt alone. The exercise allowed students to ask questions of the character so they could learn what was going on in her backstory. Through the actor’s portrayal, the lesson was intended to help students gain a better, more empathetic understanding of how people may be struggling with unknown challenges, fifth-grade teacher Amanda Jessee said.

Understanding people is very important because most people end up experiencing difficult times in their life, Cassidy, Westwood View fifth grader said.

“You need people to be there to help you through hard times,” Cassidy noted.

The activity provided a helpful reminder to be empathetic, Jake, Westwood View fifth-grader said.

“You might want to be nice to them,” Jake said.  “Don’t mess with people because you don’t know what is happening in their life.”

The lesson was presented as part of a Shawnee Mission School District partnership with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Through this partnership, teaching artists visit Shawnee Mission schools and help teachers use artistic concepts in the classroom. The district’s partnership with the Kennedy Center is fully underwritten by the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation.