Research shows that encouraging and developing empathy for animals in children is an important motivator toward action on the animals’ behalf. Seeing animals receiving exceptional care at the Seattle Aquarium and learning about the importance of a healthy habitat for their well being helps children transfer their resulting feelings of goodwill to marine animals in the wild, as well as Earth’s one ocean.
Through a generous donation by an anonymous donor, your Aquarium is in the midst of a multi-year project, Inspiring Empathy for Our Marine Environment, dedicated to compiling, sharing and implementing best practices related to empathy development in children. In conjunction with the Woodland Park Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the Seattle Aquarium has conducted a review of literature and generated tools to measure empathy-related outcomes; the Aquarium has already implemented empathy into several of its programs. One area of particular focus for the Aquarium has been helping children draw connections with less-charismatic animals—such barnacles and corals, which frequently aren’t recognized by children (and even some adults) as being animals at all.
In support of this project in 2016, Aquarium staff made leadership presentations at two national conferences; developed and held three workshops for formal and informal educators; contributed a chapter for a textbook on ocean literacy; and began planning a project that will support empathy development in children across the country.