Case Study: STEMpathy in Makerspaces with the Empathy Toy

Museums give us the opportunity to explore and understand the past. But in today’s tech-heavy world, it can be hard for them to compete for attention. Given that museums have so much knowledge to offer, how can we take the lessons from centuries-old history and culture, and apply them to the realities of the 21st century? Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum works to make what’s old new again, using history and culture to educate and excite young people about 21st-century challenges.

The ROM found that programming based on STEAM education (it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math -- we’ve also explored the subject in an earlier community story) is especially useful for helping kids apply lessons from the past to uniquely 21st-century issues. ROM staff created Club STEAM to give kids from vulnerable neighbourhoods the opportunity for hands-on play that develops social skills and encourages innovative thinking. For a deeper dive into how the ROM uses the Empathy Toy, check out our full interview.

In the view of Cheryl Blackman, Assistant Vice President of Audience Development at the ROM, the Empathy Toy helps kids learn important 21st-century skills, like collaboration and inclusion.

“The Empathy Toy causes you to reach inside yourself to tap into other parts of your mind and emotions that are under-worked. And once you begin to work that part of yourself, it really does begin to change your perspective.”

Cheryl Blackman, Assistant Vice President, Audience Development, Royal Ontario Museum

The Empathy Toy is a key part of the ROM’s Club STEAM program and each session starts off with 15 to 20 minutes of Empathy Toy game play. The program leaders create an Empathy Zone where the kids use the toy to kickstart their empathy and creativity, which comes in handy when they start working on more technical problems. When issues arise in their projects, they use empathy as a starting point for solving the issue.

Read the full interview with Cheryl Blackman and Jamea Zuberi, a Club STEAM leader, to discover how the Empathy Toy informs their work with kids and STEAM learning.

The Empathy Toy

…is a blindfolded puzzle game that can only be solved when players learn to understand each other.

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