Saamarthya Foundation is a non-profit organization that works towards the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Our brief was to design an empathy curriculum for schools that focuses on sensitivity towards students with disabilities. The initiative was intended to further Saamarthya’s aim of creating inclusive environments where children of all abilities can thrive.
The project was executed from January to September 2021 and is currently being tested at Army Public School, Ahmednagar.
LEND (Learning Empathy, Nurturing Diversity) is a collection of tools to help primary-school educators instil empathy and open-mindedness in their students, particularly towards their peers with disabilities.
Tools or techniques to be adopted in the classroom and used on a regular basis.
Books or videos to help explain or reinforce certain ideas.
Tasks, assignments, worksheets, or projects requiring hands-on involvement.
LEND comprises over 60 learning tools: activities, strategies, resources, and information cards. The toolkit can be used as an interactive PDF or a printed book, and is available in two versions for teachers to implement with grades 1-2 or grades 3-5.
Shareable cards about certain concepts to guide teachers during class discussions and to be shared with parents.
How does LEND help educators foster a supportive and inclusive classroom?
1. By emphasizing empathy through principles of social-emotional learning
LEND is organized into four themes: strengthening identity, understanding emotions, cultivating a supportive classroom, and developing a growth mindset. Across these themes, the learning tools encourage students to cultivate an understanding and kindness for others as well as for themselves.
Click on the underlined phrases to view examples from each theme
2. By addressing bullying, stereotypes, and attitudes towards disabilities
Various learning tools draw on well-represented stories, offer factual content, and suggest actionable classroom initiatives. These equip students to support their peers, question biases, learn more about disabilities, and tackle bullying, lending to an environment where students with different abilities and backgrounds can feel safe and included.
CLICK TO VIEW EXAMPLES OF RELEVANT
An activity from the chapter Building a Community
An information card from the chapter Looking beyond Stereotypes
A resource from the chapter Learning about Disabilities
A strategy from the chapter Dealing with Bullying & Conflict
3. By prioritising the teacher's ease of use
The toolkit was designed to enable intuitive navigation and use in diverse settings. It includes examples and references relevant in an Indian context and was structured to streamline the process for educators as far as possible.
Click to view the full video
We interacted with nearly 500 students across grades 1-5 to understand how, among other things, they manage their emotions, communicate with others, respond to bullying, and think about disabilities. Our process was iterative—if responses didn’t seem genuine or our methods didn’t serve their purpose, we tweaked our approach to improve our research inquiries.
We held over 20 sessions with groups of 20-30 students each to collect quantitative data through written exercises and class discussions about hypothetical situations. Activities were tailored to be age-appropriate for each grade while still fulfilling similar objectives.
TALKING TO TEACHERS
Through questionnaires and a group discussion, primary-school educators shed light on the social and emotional capabilities of their students. They provided examples of methods they find effective in class and areas where they thought their students needed additional support.
INTERACTING WITH FOCUS GROUPS
For more qualitative insights, we spoke to focus groups of 10 students from each grade. Each participant responded to personalised prompts and contributed to a collective story-generating exercise. These sessions were designed to further understand students’ mindsets and behaviour.
"The most effective way of making societies inclusive is to focus on its youngest citizens because when children are taught the value of embracing individuals with diverse abilities, only then will they grow up to be truly inclusive-minded adults."
- Dr. Shivani Pandit, Founder, Saamarthya Foundation