Employees with strong STEM skills are equipped to tackle the high-tech challenges of the 21st-century workplace, but the future workplace also requires soft skills to address real-life issues. To solve the complex problems faced by real people, we’ll need problem solvers with real human skills: empathy and creativity. In recognition of this need, educators have started to champion STEMpathy, a blending of tech and soft skills. By marrying the hard and soft skills, students gain the empathy needed to understand human needs, and the technological know-how to develop practical solutions. The global refugee crisis is one 21st-century issue where STEMpathy is making important inroads, from designing safer shelters to creating sanitization solutions.
Thanks to organizations like Nairobi Play Project, STEMpathy is helping refugees better integrate into their new communities, and helping locals and newcomers better understand each other. Ariam Mogos, the founder of Nairobi Play Project, uses the Empathy Toy to promote dialogue, understanding, and ultimately friendship between young refugees and their Kenyan peers. The groups develop relationships while working together to use STEM skills to solve real problems affecting their local community. We put together an in-depth case study on Ariam’s work with the Empathy Toy; you can read all about the Nairobi Play Project here.
Ariam’s project is a game design program that encourages Kenyan kids and young Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees to work together to build games that address social issues in Kenya. And the Empathy Toy is key to getting the different groups to work together:
“The Empathy Toy was really important in creating intercultural dialogue because many of its concepts are aligned to intercultural competence, like making assumptions about others, active listening, etc. They all play a role in escalating and de-escalating conflict and building relationships.”Ariam Mogos, Founder, Nairobi Play Project
One game play scenario Ariam found especially useful for the kids she works with involved breaking the kids into two groups and giving them mismatched toy pieces without them knowing. Initially, both sides would become frustrated and angry with each other because they didn’t seem to be talking about the same game - and indeed, they weren’t. But eventually that frustration would give way to innovative thinking. They’d move beyond blame and work together to find out what larger external factors were preventing them from solving the problem.
Read the full interview with Ariam to discover other helpful insights she has for using the Empathy Toy to cultivate dialogue and teamwork.