One way to teach empathy through STEM


Anthony Johnson is a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at Isenberg Elementary School in Salisbury, North Carolina. He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator and TED-Ed Innovative Educator. Charity Ramsey is a fifth-grade 5th science and English teacher at Isenberg Elementary School.  She is a graduate of Livingstone College and has been teaching for seven years with experience in 1st, 2nd, and 5th grade. Below, they describe their joint classroom project: STEM EMPATHY.

It all began when we signed up our fifth-grade students for Design For Change, a global movement driven by children who believe that “every child can.” The program takes students through four steps — feel, imagine, do and share — to help students design a project to create change. After combining classrooms for this project, our 50 students brainstormed many ideas for projects to create change. These project ideas ranged from helping the homeless to tutoring STEM in pediatric hospitals to restoring historic homes. After careful consideration, the students unanimously agreed that delivering STEM education to their peers in hospitals would have the most impact and bring the most meaning and purpose in each of their lives. Thus, STEM EMPATHY was born.

The mission of STEM EMPATHY is to encourage and tutor children in pediatric hospitals, and to give our students the opportunity to learn and grow through a service learning project that integrates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In essence, we want to function as a visiting STEM classroom at the local Children’s Hospital.

This service learning project will give our students the opportunity to tutor and build relationships with children in pediatric hospitals, while learning from one another, with one another. Children are capable of comprehending complex issues and empathizing with children their age. When asked why they chose this project idea, one student responded, “Children who are not able to come to the classroom still need education. You don’t know what they want to be if they get past their illness.”

STEM EMPATHY is a now a nonprofit, student-led initiative. Learn more about it here:!