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Fostering empathy for people and animals: An evaluation of Lake Superior Zoo’s Nature Preschool


In light of the significance of empathy in prosocial and conservation behavioral contexts, and with its relevance to social-emotional learning, which is an emphasis in early childhood education, empathy is a timely and meaningful construct to study within the context of nature preschools. Thus, a program evaluation was conducted to explore the potential of a nature preschool, and specifically a zoo-based nature-preschool, to foster children’s empathy. This was a small-scale evaluation, conducted with 10 preschool participants. Yet it suggests the potential for supporting children’s empathy through a zoo-based nature preschool, as data indicates children’s emotional sharing and empathic concern significantly increased across the three contexts of with humans, non-wildlife animals, and wildlife. Cognitive perspective-taking significantly increased in the context of humans, but not in animal contexts. Implications for further research are discussed. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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