Learning Through Empathy - Secondary and Postsecondary

Learning Through Empathy - Secondary and Postsecondary

Empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—is a vital skill for students navigating the diversity and conflicts inherent in the 21st century. Through this playlist, educators at the secondary level will find unique Canadian resources exploring the role empathy plays in our world of divergent and often clashing points of view.

At the most basic level, empathy allows students to experience the emotions and perspectives of another person. Yet the repercussions of that ability are far reaching. Empathetic students respect the diversity of cultures, abilities, and orientations found in today’s classrooms, without denigrating themselves or others. They look for common ground or possible solutions when disagreements arise. They are sensitive to issues of injustice and inequality.

The NFB films in this playlist can be incorporated into many areas of the curriculum, including social studies, language arts, Canadian and First Nations studies, gender studies, health, sexuality and family issues. Students are challenged to think critically and communicate opinions, ideas, and feelings on perspectives that may be far different from their own. The films address questions relevant to young people as they move into adulthood: Who am I and what is my role in a world that is far from perfect or just? What is empathy and how is it useful or powerful in my life?
To scaffold the learning process, educators will find discussion questions and a KWL Table. These tools help develop the ability to respect diversity, accept oneself and others, resolve conflicts peacefully, and address society’s inequities.

The playlist films tackle numerous subjects from a variety of perspectives. Educators can utilize these films as a tool for imparting valuable insights into the role empathy plays in our lives. When watching a film, students 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 observe a character’s experiences, they inevitably 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 Elementary Learning Through Empathy - Elementary

and this website Roots of Empathy

  • 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.

  • Four Feet Up
    2008 | 46 min

    In this personal documentary, award-winning photographer and filmmaker Nance Ackerman invites us into the lives of a determined family for a profound experience of child poverty in one of the richest countries in the world. 20 years after the House of Commons promised to eliminate poverty among Canadian children, 8-year-old Isaiah is trying hard to grow up healthy, smart and well adjusted despite the odds stacked against him. Isaiah knows he's been categorized as "less fortunate," and his short life has seen more than his share of social workers, food banks and police interventions. His parents struggle to overcome a legacy of stereotypes, abuse and dysfunction. More than anything, they want Isaiah and his siblings to have access to opportunities they never had. Ackerman spent 2 years with Isaiah and his family. As her portrait of the family unfolds with the help of Isaiah's creative input, curiosity and zest for life, so do Ackerman's own feelings about the responsibilities of Canadians to raise all children as our best investment in the nation's future.

  • Invisible City
    2009|1 h 15 min

    Invisible City is a moving story of two boys from Regent Park crossing into adulthood – their mothers and mentors rooting for them to succeed; their environment and social pressures tempting them to make poor choices. Turning his camera on the often ignored inner city, Academy-award nominated director Hubert Davis sensitively depicts the disconnection of urban poverty and race from the mainstream.

  • Last Chance
    2012 | 1 h 24 min

    This feature documentary tells the stories of 5 asylum seekers who flee their native countries to escape homophobic violence. They face hurdles integrating into Canada, fear deportation and anxiously await a decision that will change their lives forever.

  • Me and the Mosque
    2005|52 min

    Using original animation, archival footage and personal interviews, this full-length documentary portrays the multiple relationships Canadian Muslim women entertain with Islam’s place of worship, the mosque. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. In North America, a large number of converts are women. Many are drawn to the religion because of its emphasis on social justice and spiritual equality between the sexes. Yet, many mosques force women to pray behind barriers, separate from men, and some do not even permit women to enter the building. Exploring all sides of the issue, the film examines the space – both physical and social – granted to women in mosques across the country.

    

Me and the Mosque was produced as part of the Reel Diversity Competition for emerging filmmakers of colour. Reel Diversity is a National Film Board of Canada initiative in partnership with CBC Newsworld.

  • Namrata
    2009|9 min

    The intensely personal story of Namrata Gill – one of many real-life inspirations for director Deepa Mehta's film Heaven on Earth – told in her own words. After 6 years, she courageously leaves an abusive relationship and launches a surprising new career.

  • One of Them
    2000|25 min

    This short fictional film features high school seniors discovering and battling against homophobic discrimination and stereotypes. Jamie must face up to her own reactions as she realizes that her friend is gay and needs her support. Jamie's boyfriend must decide if he will support Jamie. One of Them focuses on homophobia and discrimination in a human rights context. The dramatization prompts viewers to examine their own responses and promote a safe school environment for all.

  • The People of the Kattawapiskak River
    2012 | 50 min

    Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary The People of the Kattawapiskak River exposes the housing crisis faced by 1,700 Cree in Northern Ontario, a situation that led Attawapiskat’s band chief, Theresa Spence, to ask the Canadian Red Cross for help. With the Idle No More movement making front page headlines, this film provides background and context for one aspect of the growing crisis.

  • Petra's Poem
    2012|4 min

    In this short film, Toronto artist Petra Tolley, who has Down syndrome, performs a soliloquy that encapsulates her distinctive take on the social self. Drawing from her emotional experiences, she illustrates what it feels like to be “in the middle.” Employing rotoscopy, hand-drawn animation techniques and subtle stereoscopic 3D, the film captures Petra as she engages the camera with unflinching directness and dignity.

  • Sexy Inc. Our Children Under Influence
    2007|35 min

    Sophie Bissonnette's documentary analyzes the hypersexualization of our environment and its noxious effects on young people. Psychologists, teachers and school nurses criticize the unhealthy culture surrounding our children, where marketing and advertising are targeting younger and younger audiences and bombarding them with sexual and sexist images. Sexy Inc. suggests various ways of countering hypersexualization and the eroticization of childhood and invites us to rally against this worrying phenomenon.

  • Shredded

    This short film follows a group of teenage boys eager to emulate the muscle-filled bodies of their media heroes. Revealing the lengths these boys are willing to go to achieve their goal, this film explores the use of supplements and the temptations of steroids. The boys relate their experiences, desires and motivations to the audience, who are left to draw their own conclusions.

    The film is designed to provoke discussion among teenagers about body image and where lines should be drawn between healthy and dangerous behaviour.

  • Tying Your Own Shoes
    2009 | 16 min

    Tying Your Own Shoes is an intimate glimpse into the exceptional mindsets and emotional lives of four adult artists with Down Syndrome. An artful, four-way essay about ability, this animated documentary explores how it feels to be a little bit unusual.

    In her follow-up to her award-winning film, John and Michael, filmmaker Shira Avni pursues a deeper understanding of esteem and disability by inviting Petra, Matthew, Daninah and Katherine to consider their pasts, relationships and ambitions. Tying Your Own Shoes is a hybrid of auteur documentary and animation cinema, two forms with which The National Film Board of Canada has developed a world-renowned expertise over the past 70 years.