Learning Through Empathy - Elementary

Learning Through Empathy - Elementary

This playlist offers elementary school teachers unique Canadian resources that will help students explore, discuss, and ultimately express empathy, an essential skill for navigating the diversity and conflicts inherent in our global community.

At the most basic level, empathy can be described as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Empathy allows children to see the world from other people’s perspectives and to walk, if only for a few steps, in their shoes.

In schools, empathetic children listen to conflicting points of view and are capable of exploring peaceful solutions. When they see someone being hurt or bullied, these children refuse to be passive bystanders; instead, they speak up. Young people with a strong sense of empathy extend a helping hand and take a stand for diversity, fairness, and justice.

This playlist, appropriate for Grades 1–6, offers educators a rich collection of films that may be incorporated into many areas of the curriculum, including social studies, language arts, citizenship, conflict resolution, gender and disability studies as well as family issues. The films act as springboards for meaningful conversations and follow-up projects to develop and enhance critical thinking and communication skills. By engaging with and discussing different religious, regional, political and cultural perspectives, children gain a wider view of the world and their role in it. They begin to grapple with the fundamental questions of who they are and how they respond to the inequalities and injustices found in the world.

To scaffold the learning process, educators are encouraged to use the discussion questions and the KWL chart. All help to foster children’s emotional literacy skills including respect for diversity, acceptance of oneself and of others, conflict resolution, and concern for fairness and justice.

The films presented here explore a wide range of issues, cultures, and points of view. Educators can utilize these films as a tool for imparting valuable insights into the role empathy plays in our lives. When watching a film, children (and adults) often place themselves in the position of a character, protagonist, or group depicted onscreen. This makes film an excellent vehicle for accessing empathy. As students listen and observe the character’s experiences, they begin to understand what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.

To learn more
Learn more about the topic of empathy by exploring our thematic brochure: Learning Through Empathy, a selection of films and interactive productions


our Learning Through Empathy Playlist for Secondary and Postsecondary Learning Through Empathy - Secondary and Postsecondary

and this website Roots of Empathy

  • A Family for Maria
    1992|5 min

    An animated film for five- to eight-year-olds about international adoption and the difficulty of adapting to a new environment. The film also gives a glimpse into the problems of abandoned children in developing countries. In A Family for Maria/Une famille pour Maria, love triumphs over the insecurity of a little Latin American girl who finds a new family in North America.

  • Asthma Tech
    2006|7 min

    In this animated short, young Winston, who suffers from chronic asthma, isn’t able to participate in the everyday activities of his peers and classmates. He copes with the predicament through his vivid imagination, with paper and crayons. On one particularly rainy afternoon, Winston discovers that the magic of imagination has the power to transform and empower, and his skills and talents save the day.

    Part of the Talespinners collection, which uses vibrant animation to bring popular children’s stories from a wide range of cultural communities to the screen.

  • Big Mouth
    2012 | 8 min

    This animated short tells the story of Trudy, a little girl who is equal parts truthful and rude. A bright-minded and quick-witted child, Trudy has an unfiltered and deeply curious way of looking at the world. Here, events force her to question what it means to speak the truth, and comes to understand how our differences make us unique.

  • Bully Dance
    2000|10 min

    This short animated film examines the roles of peer pressure, accountability and power struggles in bullying – a pervasive phenomenon.

    When a bully picks on a smaller member of his group, the whole community becomes involved. The bully, they learn, is himself a victim at home.

    Bully Dance is part of ShowPeace, a series of lively, animated films designed to explore conflict and dispute resolution.

  • Door to Door
    1992|4 min

    An animated film for five-to eight-year-olds that presents the familiar situation of big kids bullying little ones in the schoolyard. This time, however, the little kids refuse to accept it and their constructive efforts in their own defence prove that might does not necessarily mean right. Film without words.

  • Flawed
    2010 | 12 min

    Flawed is nothing less than a beautiful gift from Andrea Dorfman's vivid imagination, a charming little film about very big ideas. Dorfman has the uncanny ability to transform the intensely personal into the wisely universal. She deftly traces her encounter with a potential romantic partner, questioning her attraction and the uneasy possibility of love. But, ultimately, Flawed is less about whether girl can get along with boy than whether girl can accept herself, imperfections and all.

    This film is both an exquisite tribute to the art of animation and a loving homage to storyboarding, a time-honoured way of rendering scenes while pointing the way to the dramatic arc of the tale.

  • Hannah's Story
    2007|29 min

    At the age of 5, Hannah Taylor spotted her first homeless person in the back alleys of Winnipeg. This experience not only troubled her, but it drove her to do nothing less than change the world. The Ladybug Foundation, the charity Hannah helped establish, has raised over a million dollars to date. With her huge heart and can-do attitude, she preaches a simple message of "Share a little of what you have and always care about others." As this short documentary proves, we all have a lot to learn from Hannah's story.

  • Ludovic - Magic in the Air
    2002|12 min

    It's autumn in all its glory and Ludovic is playing in the park. A bigger teddy bear knocks him down, and the little cub is rescued by a little girl teddy bear. Her kind gesture teaches Ludovic that the magic of friendship can help him face the fiercest bully.

  • The Orange
    1992|4 min

    In this animated film for five- to eight-year-olds, a group of schoolchildren are amazed to discover that one of their classmates does not have enough to eat. With the help of their teacher, the children come to understand that his hardship affects them all and that the fight against poverty requires solidarity and sharing. Film without words.

  • Papa
    1992|4 min

    Ce film d'animation traite du droit de l'enfant de vivre avec ses parents. Il raconte aux 5 à 8 ans l'histoire d'un enfant qui essaie avec douceur et ténacité d'attirer l'attention de son père occupé par ses affaires.

  • Private Eyes
    2011 | 14 min

    This 3D stereoscopic animation tells the story of Matthew, a boy who is never afraid of the dark. Since he's been in darkness all his life, Matthew has eyes where other people only have hands, feet or ears. This week is Matthew's birthday and he's very curious about the surprise his parents are preparing for him. Can he find it?

  • Staying Real - Teens Confront Sexual Stereotypes
    2010 | 24 min

    A documentary geared to 11 to 13-year-olds in which preteens and teens discuss the adverse effects of the sexual stereotypes they're bombarded with. They talk about how hard it is to develop their own personality and make friends when they don’t conform to media and advertising images. Produced in collaboration with the Montreal Women’s Y as a follow-up to Sexy Inc.: Our Children Under Influence, and directed by award-winning filmmaker Sophie Bissonnette, this film is a great way to kick off a lively discussion.

  • When All the Leaves Are Gone
    2010|17 min

    As the only First Nations student in an all-white 1940s school, eight-year old Wato is keenly aware of the hostility towards her. She deeply misses the loving environment of the reserve she once called home, and her isolation is sharpened by her father’s serious illness. When Wato’s teacher reads from a history book describing First Nations peoples as ignorant and cruel, it aggravates her classmates’ prejudice. Shy and vulnerable Wato becomes the target of their bullying and abuse. Alone in her suffering, she finds solace and strength in the protective world of her magical dreams.