Our activities come in two forms

  • Short 'Spark' Activities

    Typical Duration 2-3 hours

    Work with your partner classroom on a discrete activity. Spark activities are lighter touch engagements. You can participate in several Sparks during a year or progress to Fire.

    See our Spark activities below
    Spark icon
  • Longer 'Fire' Activities

    Duration 2-3 weeks

    Bring small groups of students together to collaborate on a longer-term learning experience. Fire activities provide the opportunity to deepen personal connections over time.

    Early versions of Fire activities are available to you once you register.
    Fire icon

Each Spark activity follows a three step progression to deepen learning

  • Step 1

    Activate

    (approx 40-70 min)
    What is this?

    An entry activity that helps students connect their prior knowledge of the topic to what they’ll learn about.

    Why is this important?

    New knowledge is constructed from prior knowledge and experiences. The activity starts with the knowledge students currently have and provides context before new knowledge is presented.

  • Step 2

    Interact

    (30-40 min)
    What is this?

    A live video interaction where students meet their partner classroom and discover new ideas and perspectives about the topic.

    Why is this important?

    Partner school interactions deepen learning as students apply knowledge to different contexts and practice perspective-taking and communication skills.

  • Step 3

    Reflect

    (15-20 min)
    What is this?

    A Reflection Circle is an activity that strengthens learning and helps students understand their perspectives and those of others.

    Why is this important?

    Reflection Circles help students make sense of their developing ideas, build community, and encourage honest dialogue for students to navigate challenging issues and questions.

Browse our Spark Activities

All activities include a 30-40 min live video interaction
  • Ways We Play

    • Total Time: 2-3 hours
    • Subject: Literacy, Social Studies (Culture)
    • Learning Goals: Compare & Contrast, Communication, Speaking and Listening
    Read the Lesson Overview
    Ways we play
  • Community Cartographers

    • Total Time: 2-3 hours
    • Subject: Social Studies (Geography, Humans and the Environment)
    • Learning Goals: Mapping, Communication, Speaking & Listening, Perspective-Taking
    Read the Lesson Overview
    Community cartographers
  • Helping Hands

    • Total Time:1-2 hours
    • Subject: Social Studies (Civics)
    • Learning Goals: Compare & Contrast, Communication, Speaking and Listening, Community Contribution
    Read the Lesson Overview
    Helping hands
  • Weather Out the Window

    • Total Time: 2-3 hours
    • Subject: Social Studies (Humans & the Environment), Science (Weather)
    • Learning Goals: Analyzing & Interpreting Data, Writing, Communication, Speaking & Listening, Perspective Taking
    Read the Lesson Overview
    Weather out the window
Download info on Learning Outcomes & Standards

All of Empatico's activities incorporate insights from child development research to create meaningful experiences and positive perceptions among children around the world.

Download the Research Brief
Ways we play

Ways We Play

  • Essential Question: Do all kids play the same way?
  • Total Time: 2-3 hours, including 20-30 mins for video interaction
  • Subject: Literacy, Social Studies (Culture)
  • Learning Goals: Compare & Contrast, Communication, Speaking and Listening

Overview

Creative free play is essential for children. Through play, children learn to problem-solve, explore the physical world, and develop social skills. The question is, do kids around the world play the same way? Spark your students’ curiosity by partnering with another classroom to discover everyone’s favorite way to play. To prepare for the exchange, your class will read a story about creative play, discuss play preferences, and prepare to share. In a live video interaction, classes will compare ways to play and discuss similarities and differences in play across communities.

Lesson Goals

  • Identify and explain the kinds of creative free play that interest individual students and the class
  • Explore another community’s interests, perspectives, and values in relation to play
  • Connect to others through respectful, open-minded listening and speaking
  • Compare other kids’ play preferences to identify similarities and differences
  • Number one

    Activate

    After reading a storybook about creative play, students brainstorm ways to play and prepare to share their favorite kinds of play. Students learn where their partner classroom is located and predict how their new friends play.

  • Number two

    Interact

    In a live video interaction with the partner classroom, classes introduce themselves, compare play preferences and ask/answer questions.

  • Number three

    Reflect

    Students gather in a circle to reflect on what they learned about how kids play; they discuss how kids’ experiences were similar and different, as well as how they are inspired to play in new ways.

Materials & Resources

Before you teach this Spark, gather the following materials:
  • The storybook, Christina Katerina and The Box, by Patricia Lee Gauch
  • Access to a map (paper, globe, or online) to show the partner classroom location
  • Optional: A labeled clock set to the local time of the partner classroom’s city
  • Optional: Printed handouts of the Ways We Play Thinking & Reflection Tool or your own adaptation [after sign-up, access Empatico resources via teacher dashboard on our website]
  • Optional: Printed note cards or poster of the Empatico Skills [access through teacher dashboard]
Other books about imaginative play:
  • Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran. Set in Yuma, Arizona; children create an imaginary city in the desert using rocks, glass, and other found objects.
  • Mattland, by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert. After moving, Matt fights off loneliness by imagining a world; new friends cooperate to create a friendship that is real.

Teacher Planning Considerations

  • Creative free play: This lesson-modal is intended to encourage thinking about student-centered play that doesn’t require adults. You may need to guide the discussion if students suggest activities that require adult involvement (for example, organized sports).
  • Empatico Skills: Practicing the Empatico Skills [found in your teacher dashboard] can strengthen students' communication and interpersonal competencies and help create positive experiences between partner classrooms.
  • Thinking & Reflection Tool: We have provided a tool to support student thinking and reflection throughout this Spark. However, if your class already uses journals or class notebooks, you can support the same kind of engagement using your own familiar routines and materials [access tool through teacher dashboard].
  • Teacher Tips for Intercultural Experiences: These evidence-based tips help you prepare for and address any challenges that may arise before, during, or after the interaction with your partner classroom [access tips through teacher dashboard].
  • Reflection Circle: At the end of this Spark, you will gather students in a circle to reflect on the video interaction. If circles are common in your classroom, use your established norms for sharing ideas. If circles are new for you, be sure to review the Empatico Guide for Reflection Circles [access through teacher dashboard].
Community cartographers

Community Cartographers

  • Essential Question: How does the geographic community around our school compare to others around the world?
  • Total Time: 2-3 hours, including 30-35 min for video interactions
  • Subject: Social Studies (Geography, Humans and the Environment)
  • Learning Goals: Mapping, Communication, Speaking & Listening, Perspective-Taking

Overview

Every community is composed of social, environmental, and spatial components, yet we often stop paying attention to the familiar features that make our communities unique. Take a look outside with your students to identify key features and a create a simple map of the school’s surroundings, then compare the features represented on your maps to satellite views of the community. Prepare to share key details with a partner classroom who has never seen your school or its neighborhood. Classes will use cardinal directions to communicate mapped features and listen carefully to draw a simple map of their partner school’s surroundings. Students will identify similarities and differences between the school communities, and ask clarifying questions about cultural and geographic features they are curious to know more about.

Lesson Goals

  • Construct maps for both a familiar and unfamiliar community
  • Use maps and satellite images (Google Maps) to explain relationships between the locations of places and their environmental characteristics
  • Practice perspective-taking by exploring how culture influences the way people modify and adapt to their environments
  • Connect to others through respectful, open-minded listening and speaking
  • Number one

    Activate

    To create a simple map of their school, students look outside the classroom and view satellite images. Students prepare to share key features with their partner classroom, learn where their partner class is located, and predict what their partner school’s neighborhood looks like.

  • Number two

    Interact

    In a live video, interaction with the partner classroom, classes introduce themselves, clearly communicate key map features, listen carefully to draw a map of the partner school, compare community features, and ask/answer questions.

  • Number three

    Reflect

    Students gather in a circle to reflect on how kids’ school neighborhoods are similar and different, and how mapping helps us understand the geographic relationships between school and communities.

Materials & Resources

Before you teach this Spark, gather the following materials:
  • Printed copies of “Map Template 1: My School” to map your school (or blank paper for students to draw the template on). You will need 2 handouts per student or pair of students, for a first and final draft. [after sign-up, access Empatico resources via teacher dashboard on our website]
  • Printed copies of “Map Template 2: Partner School” [access through teacher dashboard] to map the partner school (or blank paper for students to draw the template on). You will need 1 handout per student or pair of students.
  • Clipboards to write on if walking outside to map.
  • Access to a map (paper, globe, or online) to show the partner classroom location
  • Optional: A labeled clock set to the local time of the partner classroom’s city
  • Optional: Printed handouts of the Community Cartographers Reflection Tool or your own adaptation [access through teacher dashboard]
  • Optional: Printed note cards or poster of the Empatico Skills [access through teacher dashboard]

Teacher Planning Considerations

  • Mapping Skills: This lesson asks students to represent their school building and the immediate surrounding geographic features. If students need more preparation to do this work, consider taking additional time to teach elementary map skills.
  • Walking Tour: This lesson provides an opportunity to take students on a walking tour around the perimeter of the school. If a walking trip is not possible, other options include expanding the initial discussion, encouraging students to take a close look on their way to and from school, and working more closely with the satellite views to create your class maps.
  • Mapping Scope (keep it concise): During the video interaction, students will share only 6-8 key features of their neighborhood. Although students may include many details on their initial maps, make sure the class creates a more concise class map to share with their partners.
  • Reflection Tool: We have provided a tool to support student reflection. However, if your class already uses journals or class notebooks, you can support the same kind of engagement using your own familiar routines and materials [access tool through teacher dashboard].
  • Teacher Tips for Intercultural Experiences: These evidence-based tips help you prepare for and address any challenges that may arise before, during, or after the interaction with your partner classroom [access tips through teacher dashboard].
  • Reflection Circle: At the end of this Spark, you will gather students in a circle to reflect on their experience during the video interaction. If circles are common in your classroom, use your established norms for sharing ideas. If circles are new, be sure to review the Empatico Guide for Reflection Circles [access through teacher dashboard].
Helping hands

Helping Hands

  • Essential Question: How do kids contribute to their communities?
  • Total Time: 1-2 hours, including 25-30 min for video interaction
  • Subject: Social Studies (Civics)
  • Learning Goals: Compare & Contrast, Communication, Speaking & Listening, Community Contribution

Overview

In every community around the world, there’s a lot of work to do! Communities and families work best when everyone pitches in to help. Whether kids participate in everyday tasks or problem-solving, lending a hand helps young people develop responsibility, learn to cooperate, and master practical life skills. Kids who take ownership of their roles at home and in their community are more likely to step up to help others outside their neighborhood and to consider themselves part of a global community. In a video interaction, explore how kids get started on the path of civic engagement by asking the question: How do kids contribute to their communities?

Lesson Goals

  • Describe ways in which people benefit from working together in communities
  • Explore another community’s interests, perspectives, and values
  • Connect to others through respectful, open-minded listening and speaking
  • Compare how children contribute to communities to identify similarities and differences
  • Number one

    Activate

    Students talk with their peers about how they help in their community. After learning where their partner classroom is located, they predict how their new friends help at home and prepare to connect with their partner classroom.

  • Number two

    Interact

    In a live video interaction with your partner classroom, classes introduce themselves, share how they contribute, and ask/answer questions.

  • Number three

    Reflect

    Students gather in a circle to reflect on what they learned about the varied ways in which kids contribute; they discuss how kids’ experiences were similar and different, as well as how they are inspired to help in new ways.

Materials & Resources

Before you teach this Spark, gather the following materials:
  • Access to a map (paper, globe, or online) to show the partner classroom location
  • Optional: A labeled clock set to the local time of the partner classroom’s city
  • Optional: Printed handouts of the Helping Hands Thinking & Reflection Tool or your own adaptation of this tool [after sign-up, access Empatico resources via teacher dashboard on our website]
  • Optional: Printed note cards or poster of the Empatico Skills [access through teacher dashboard]

Teacher Planning Considerations

  • Empatico Skills: Empatico Skills: Practicing the Empatico Skills [found in your teacher dashboard] can strengthen students' communication and interpersonal competencies and help create positive experiences between partner classrooms. You may want to introduce (and model) these skills before beginning the Spark.
  • Thinking & Reflection Tool: We have provided a tool to support student thinking and reflection throughout this Spark. However, if your class already uses journals or class notebooks, you can support the same kind of engagement using your own familiar routines and materials [access tool through teacher dashboard].
  • Teacher Tips for Intercultural Experiences: These evidence-based tips help you prepare for and address any challenges that may arise before, during, or after the interaction with your partner classroom [access tips through teacher dashboard].
  • Reflection Circle: At the end of this Spark, you will gather students in a circle to reflect on their experience during the video interaction. If circles are common in your classroom, use your established norms for sharing ideas. If circles are a new feature for your students, be sure to review the Empatico Guide for Reflection Circles [access through teacher dashboard].
  • Extension Ideas: This lesson is designed to take approximately one to two hours. If you prefer to spend more time exploring the topic of how children contribute to their communities and families, extension activities could include reading a story about a young person’s contribution and/or making a “mind-map” of the ways students currently help and how they would like to help.
Weather out the window

Weather Out the Window

  • Essential Question: How do different kinds of weather affect children around the world?
  • Total Time: 2-3 hours, including 25-30 min for video interaction
  • Subject: Social Studies (Humans and the Environment), Science (Weather)
  • Learning Goals: Analyzing & Interpreting Data, Writing, Communication, Speaking & Listening, Perspective-Taking

Overview

No matter where we live, weather plays a large role in how we experience the world, how we spend our time, and sometimes even how we feel. Understanding the weather can help us live safer lives as well as understand the challenges people in other communities face. Ignite your students’ curiosity about how others experience weather by partnering with another classroom. To prepare for the interaction with your partner, your class will review, discuss, and sort pictures of weather, record the day’s weather, discuss how your community responds to weather challenges, then prepare to share. In a live video interaction, classes will compare weather experiences and discuss similarities and differences in weather, then reflect on the experience.

Lesson Goals

  • Use data to categorize different kinds of weather around the world
  • Practice perspective-taking to understand how weather affects people’s emotions and behaviors in different ways
  • Connect to others through respectful, open-minded listening and speaking
  • Compare and contrast weather experiences and preferences with students from another part of the world
  • Number one

    Activate

    After reviewing data and pictures showing how weather affects people around the world, students answer questions and sort the weather pictures in a continuum from “pleasant” to “unpleasant.” They also think about how their local community responds to weather and prepare to share their forecast and weather preferences and experiences with their partner classroom. Students then learn where their partner class is located and make predictions about the weather there.

  • Number two

    Interact

    In a live video interaction with the partner classroom, classes introduce themselves, discuss their weather preferences and experiences and ask/answer questions.

  • Number three

    Reflect

    Students gather in a circle to reflect on the video interaction and what they learned about the weather experiences of their partner classroom. They discuss how kids’ experiences were similar and different.

Materials & Resources

Before you teach this Spark, gather the following materials:
  • Access to a map (paper, globe, or online) to show the partner classroom location
  • Have the Weather Slideshow resource open on your computer [after sign-up, access Empatico resources via teacher dashboard on our website]
  • Optional: Printed Weather Cards deck: you will only need to print these cards if you choose Option 1 or 2 (as described below) for the Weather Photo Exercise [access through teacher dashboard]
  • Optional: Printed handouts of the Weather Out the Window Thinking & Reflection Tool [access through teacher dashboard] or your own adaptation of the tool
  • Optional: A labeled clock set to the local time of the partner classroom’s city
  • Optional: Wheel of emotions or list of feelings (click here for an example)
  • Optional: Printed note cards or poster of the Empatico Skills [access through teacher dashboard]

Teacher Planning Considerations

  • Weather Photo Exercise: Students will view 4 sets of photos (4 photos each for wind, sun, snow, rain), and then will answer questions and rank their preferences for each type of weather. You will model the first set (wind), and students will do the remaining sets on their own. You have 3 options for implementing this exercise:
    • Option 1 - Students Get Up & Move: Print and cut out the Weather Cards [access in your dashboard], and place each weather set in “stations” around the room. Students rotate through the stations to do the exercise. If you have a large class, you may need 2 copies of all the cards and multiple stations.
    • Option 2 - Students Stay: & Photos Move: Similar to Option 1, except the activity is done at desks, with students passing photo sets to the next table to minimize transition time.
    • Option 3 - No Printing & Students Sit Project the Weather Slideshow on the board, and have students work in small groups to discuss and rank the photos in a written list. This is the fastest option.
  • Empatico Skills Practicing the Empatico Skills [found in your teacher dashboard] can strengthen students' communication and interpersonal competencies and help create positive experiences between partner classrooms. You may want to introduce (and model) these skills before beginning the Spark.
  • Perspective Taking: In this Spark, students will be learning how people perceive weather differently depending on personal preferences and cultural circumstances. Therefore, when students are sorting their weather preferences or interacting with their partner classroom, they may not agree on which weather scenarios are pleasant/unpleasant. This is a normal outcome and could lead to a great discussion about how some weather situations are relative (e.g., some people prefer sun, some prefer clouds) and others are more clear-cut or objective (e.g., droughts and hurricanes are never preferred).
  • Thinking and Reflection Tool: We have provided a tool to support student thinking and reflection throughout this Spark. However, if your class already uses journals or class notebooks, you can support the same kind of engagement using your own familiar routines and materials [access this tool through teacher dashboard].
  • Teacher Tips for Intercultural Experiences: These evidence-based tips help you prepare for and address any challenges that may arise before, during, or after the interaction with your partner classroom [access tips through teacher dashboard].
  • Reflection Circle: At the end of this Spark, you will gather students in a circle to reflect on their experience during the video interaction. If circles are common in your classroom, use your established norms for sharing ideas. If circles are new for your students, be sure to review the Empatico Guide for Reflection Circles [access through teacher dashboard].
  • Extension Ideas: Weather data is included in the Weather Photo Exercise so that you can extend this lesson as desired (e.g., define weather terms such as “average minimum rainfall”; learn about temperature and precipitation ranges; or provide maps to find the locations).