Empathy in action at St. John’s High School

The latest news on the Empathy Toy comes from a piece published in the Winnipeg Sun this week! Hailing from our founder Ilana Ben-Ari’s hometown, the print edition shows an extra-large photo of Grade 8 student, Kohl Clarke, holding half of an assembled empathy toy, his blindfold pulled part way up his forehead as he beams with pride.

In a moment witnessed by reporter, David Larkins, Kohl empathizes with a fellow student while they play the Empathy Toy together at St. John’s High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. According to their Vice Principal, Cree Crowchild, it’s moments like this that “show a new initiative designed to teach the notion of empathy to young students is working”.

“Everybody has empathy in them and it can’t be taught in a textbook”

This new initiative working wonders in a Winnipeg High School is the 21 Leaders program, a student leadership program that uses the empathy toy to create a “culture of understanding” with empathy at its core. In the wake of a Maclean’s magazine article “pegging Winnipeg as the country’s most racist city,” the strides these students have made has even caught the attention of the Mayor.

Speaking of the students and their work with the Empathy Toy at St John’s High School, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman relays that “one of the reasons why we’re so excited is they’ve had a huge reduction in bullying as a result of empathy games and it demonstrates in real terms that it can make a real impact on changing people’s behaviour.” The incredible reduction in bullying he refers to is echoed in a quote from Vice Principal Cree Crowchild, who shares that the result of the Empathy Toy creating “a dialogue between students, coaxing them to work together to get through tasks, and to find a shared language to do so” has been a staggering  “85% drop in office referrals due to conflict in the three years since the school has been using the toys.”

Coming together as a community

Considering Twenty One Toys’ founder, Ilana Ben-Ari’s roots in Winnipeg, it’s clear that Manitoba holds a special significance for us. The fact that “outside of Ontario, Manitoba is the province with the most amount of empathy toys” coupled with the wild success of St. John’s 21 Leaders program, the future is promising for Manitobans seeking to change the narrative of their province. As Mayor Brian Bowman put it, “empathy is a big part of the solution of how we move forward as one community.”

“Empathy toys 'the new textbooks'”

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