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Sociocultural education and empathy in early childhood: Impacting more than young kids in a classroom

The basis of strong, healthy, tolerant societies is empathy and understanding among its socioculturally diverse populace.  Inculcating young children with sociocultural education, and an empathy for fellow students, teachers, and others in their communities, is a critical building block for creating such societies. The earlier such learning happens, either at a Silver Spring preschool, or through elementary school programs, the quicker its impact resonates beyond learning centers, and permeates into broader society.

Awareness and Empathy Baby Steps

Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) often encourage young children to talk about how they feel, their experiences and their behaviors. Often, children of different ethnicities and social backgrounds may attend class in traditional garb, may celebrate culturally-relevant events, or bring different types of foods to school. 

ECEs use these occurrences as “teaching” moments in the classroom, where youngsters can understand and empathize with how others think, act, or behave. By teaching empathy for fellow students, ECE’s play a major role in helping children shape relationship building skills. It also fosters in them (young children) a spirit of social awareness, tolerance and cooperation.

A child, participating in a Silver Spring MD summer camp program, for instance, will have the opportunity to play with groups of children from diverse sociocultural backgrounds. Partaking in team sports at such events helps young children understand how their fellow team members (who have a different social and cultural background than they have) think and react in specific situations. 

Group-based activities are also a great way for children to appreciate the value of co-existence and cooperation: If the group intends to succeed, then regardless of culture, background or traditions, everyone must work together. At an early age, such group activities help children empathize with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others in the accomplishment of common goals.

Empathizing With Differences Matters

Classrooms in a Silver Spring preschool or elementary learning center are a natural melting pot of diversity. Through in-class contacts, between students of different ethnicities and heritages, kids build a broad understanding how to interact with people of different (than their own) cultures and social habits.  But this empathy typically goes beyond just the classrooms. Fostering sociocultural education, and encouraging empathy in early childhood education settings, often has impacts across the broader community.

Parents, family members and home-caregivers also form part of the critical sociocultural network that raises or cares for the child. Often, center-hosted events, such as meets and greets or parent-teacher meetings, bring those wider networks of individuals together. Their common goal, which is the care and wellbeing of their children studying at the Silver Spring elementary school or cared for at a day care center, fosters sociocultural interactions outside of a classroom setting. 

It is through such interactions that adults, who have a stake in the child’s ongoing upbringing, cultivate empathy for people of different cultures and backgrounds. Adults, planning or operating community-run programs for young children also cultivate empathy for social and cultural differences among the children they oversee. 

As a result, this cycle of sociocultural awareness, and broad-based empathy and understanding, that starts in day care and elementary school classrooms, and carries through in the halls and corridors of the child care center, spreads outside – into the community.  And that makes for more tolerant, diverse, and culturally richer neighborhoods, cities, and nations.