Students from the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts perform a dance during the Envision Financial Run for Water sponsors and teachers thank you event.

Students from the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts perform a dance during the Envision Financial Run for Water sponsors and teachers thank you event.

Research indicates helping others gives students a boost

Envision Financial Run for Water free curriculum information is offered online.

At a recent thank you evening for Envision Financial Run for Water’s sponsors and teachers held at The Reach, Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, specialist in innovative strategies for social and emotional development, shared new research on the importance of teaching empathy. The research goes hand-in-hand with the Envision Financial Run for Water free curriculum offered online.

“Scientific research now proves that children who are given the opportunity to help others have higher academic achievement,” Schonert-Reichl explained through an interview with Envision Financial Run for Water’s spokesperson Randall Peters in front of 120 people in attendance.

“Through blood tests we have also found students who help others are healthier with lower cholesterol counts to prove it.” Schonert-Reichl also explained how helping others is a real key to happiness and strong emotional health, and has also been found to boost self-confidence for the students as well as reduce bullying in schools.

“I have gone through the Run for Water curriculum, and it is really great in teaching empathy to the students,” she said.

Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts (ASIA) teacher Traci Majewski was an attendee who has integrated dance with the Envision Financial Run for Water curriculum to teach empathy to her students. Sharing their dances with the community is a unique way Majewski is giving her students the opportunity to help others.

“At ASIA, we use the arts as a way to experience life and embody a topic,” Majewski said.

“I try to instill passion in the dancers to use dance as a form of art and communication in order to inspire others … Through the arts you can truly embody and learn about a subject area rather than simply through written word. As movers you have to make yourself vulnerable. You have to take risk and throw yourself whole-heartedly in it. They grow from these experiences and learn more about themselves at the same time.”

ASIA Grade 12 student Bethany Menagh shared a dance to the audience at The Reach after Schonert-Reichl’s interview.

Menagh explained, “As we dance we try connect with the struggles of the people that Run for Water helps, we become characters as we portray their lives. It gives us empathy for what they feel and what they go through. We spent a lot of time researching their situations so we could go as in-depth as possible with our emotions. We really put our heart and soul into this dance to give it the dramatic effect, and it’s hard not to be personally affected by this serious issue when we do this.

“This project helped me understand the struggles and conflicts people face daily, and it has made more eager to support organizations like Run for Water who are actively making a difference.”

Petra Lee, another ASIA grade 12 dancer who performed, agrees teaching empathy is a powerful way to make a difference.

“The painted hands on our bodies during the dance were to symbolize that [the lack of clean drinking water] isn’t a problem affecting just one person. At one point in our dance we touch our hands to the corresponding handprints on the other dancers and that shows how it affected the community and they lean on each other to work through the struggles. But also we as a community in Abbotsford can touch their lives with something as simple as running.”

“When we originally created the Envision Financial Run for Water curriculum we had no idea that it would have this level of impact on so many people,” said Susan Byrom, manager of community investment at Envision Financial. “It is encouraging to see that the time and funds our organization has invested are making a meaningful difference to people in our local and global communities.”

The Envision Financial Run for Water takes place on May 26 at Mill Lake Park. Early bird specials for the 5K, 10K, half and full marathons are on until March 31.

Go to www.runforwater.ca to register or to download the curriculum for K-12 students.