A Better World Ed Unit

Humanity & Belonging

If you're a human, this unit matters.

While most of us agree that we humans are comprised of the same elements (oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, etc), we all live unique lives. We all have unique experiences.

 

We are all different in so many ways, yet we are all so similar, too. This presents us with important questions.

 

Do we want to explore our differences and our similarities? Do we want to become more aware of ourselves and those around us? More understanding? More curious? More compassionate? More peaceful? How?

 

This unit exists for every human ready to ponder big questions and ready to have complex conversations on the journey to reweave the fabric of our communities. The journey to be peace.

We are all part of the human species.

And yet so many of us haven’t had a chance to foster some of our most foundational abilities. To be curious. To empathize. To think critically. To collaborate. To be compassionate.

 

So many of us grow up without support to practice these abilities in our daily lives.

This leads to all kinds of diverse challenges:

Judging someone before understanding their story. Associating how much money someone earns with who they are. Competing with each other for resources we could otherwise be sharing. Making a choice because everyone else is doing it. Being unkind to another human. The list goes on.

 

But hope is not lost, humans. Not even close.

By the end of this unit:

We will have explored the value of different human abilities — empathy, critical thinking, collaboration, compassion — and we will have seen examples that show it is indeed possible to live by these values in our daily lives.

 

Hopefully, we will gather more courage to foster and apply these values as we engage with ourselves, others, and our world. Hopefully, we will open our hearts and minds just a little bit more. Heartstorm, not only brainstorm.

 

Hopefully, we will reflect on what it means to be human. On what it means to belong. On what it means to live with ubuntu. What it means to reweave the fabric of our communities. What it means to Be WE.

Bridging The Empathy Gap:

Try this free lesson (or this one!) with your class, family, or any group of humans that are interested in being part of this kind of discussion.

 

And remember:

This is a free unit full of a mix of curated content. This curated content, just like the Learning Journeys that Better World Ed create, isn’t intended to tell us what to think.

 

Rather, it is intended to encourage us to think deeply and critically. To wonder. To be curious. To begin having more complex conversations. To heartstorm with ourselves and others.

What does it mean to be human?

Okay, wait. So what are we, anyways?

Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All are necessary to life.

Our story begins, well… at the beginning. 13.7 billion years ago.

The story of how humanity began is one that reaches back as far as time itself. It begins with the creation of spacetime, matter, energy, and the forces which govern them.
 
A 13.7 Billion year dance of chemistry, physics, and biology between fundamental particles and fundamental forces that ultimately resulted in the existence of all of us.
 
 
THINK, WRITE, DISCUSS:
If we’re all just atoms, why do we all turn out looking different from each other?

Does looking different justify treating each other differently?

 

How might we think about our home (Earth)?

We live on a very small (but very precious) flying rock with water. What responsibilities do we have to it, to ourselves, and to each other?

What do we not know?

What are some questions you don’t feel you have the answers to? What are some questions that maybe no human has the answer to?

Some Big Reflection Questions

Think, Write, Heartstorm, Discuss:

1. How did humans, and everything around us, come to be?

 

2. When did we start organizing into societies? How did collective learning lead to the creation of the world we see today?

3. There is no certainty that humanity will exist forever, and we haven’t really been here that long. What can we all be doing to help ensure that human life continues, thrives, and persists?

 

4. In what ways do the above videos and questions push your mind and heart in a new way?

Understanding Ourselves and Others

How can we better understand one another?

What does it mean to empathize? To seek understanding? To listen deeply and with compassion? To pursue equity?

 

Try the accompanying lesson plan with your family, friends, class (if you’re an educator), or even by yourself! Let’s bridge the empathy gap together.

What is the impact when we fail to see others as fully human?

How does a gap in empathy affect us? How does it affect others? Have you ever experienced a pre-judgment about who you are or how you live? Reflect on times that you have judged someone without fully understanding their story. How can we work together to move past these judgments and treat each other as equals — as humans?

Exploring Our History: Why do some of the challenges we face today even exist?

Often we wonder where all of the challenges we face come from. It’s important for us to explore this wondering in a meaningful way. Our first case study: systemic racism in the United States.

What is it like to experience these kinds of injustices?

What is the experience like for those of us who are treated inhumanely? Let’s try to step into the experiences of one another.

What are ways that we perpetuate these challenges? What are the risks of doing so?

If we don’t confront our biases — if we don’t prioritize curiosity over judgment — we risk hurting others, directly and indirectly. We risk staying silent when what’s most important is speaking up. We risk seeing other people and cultures as a single narrative, rather than seeing the beautiful complexity that makes up our human species.

 

Reflect: What is the impact of seeking deeper understanding of ourselves and others?

Zooming In: The United States Prison System

Before, during, and after watching, reflect on some big questions:

 

Why and how was the US prison system designed? In what ways do the various topics focused on throughout the videos in this section connect? What have we learned from these resources that we weren’t aware of before?

Understanding Ourselves and Others

is the Journey and the End

How can we better understand one another?

What does it mean to empathize? To seek understanding? To listen deeply and with compassion? To pursue equity?

What is the impact when we fail to see others as fully human?

How does a gap in empathy affect us? How does it affect others? Have you ever experienced a pre-judgment about who you are or how you live? Reflect on times that you have judged someone without fully understanding their story. How can we work together to move past these judgments and treat each other as equals — as humans?

Case Study: Gender Bias, Inequity, and Discrimination

Let’s explore different perspectives around gender bias and inequity.

 

Reflect: in what ways do you feel you are becoming more aware of gender biases that you have in your own life?

What are ways we can begin to overcome our bias and gender inequity?

What are ways in which we perpetuate bias and judgment based on gender, and how can we begin to overcome these biases to work towards gender equity?

Reading List (ever-evolving):

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Learning and Resources | Working together to stop the spread and impact of this virus

This is not close to an exhaustive list. It is simply a list of readings we have found to be helpful in several ways, and we hope you will find them educational and useful, too.

 

We have linked each article directly here:

0. Having Complex Conversations with Courage

1. Turning to One Another (a great book that’s always relevant, and especially relevant now)

2. Neil DeGrasse Tyson does this powerful Masterclass. It costs money if you aren’t a member. We aren’t getting paid if you sign up. It’s powerful stuff, though. Just a thought. Maybe if you sign up you can convince Masterclass they should pay us for referring you? 🙂

3. Peace Is Every Step (another great book that’s always relevant, especially now)

4. The 1619 Project. Let’s explore the past of the US in more detail.

5. An Anti-Racist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi (Yes, a list within a list)

6. The Anatomy of Peace (another great book for this moment where peace is so important)

7. Race & Ethnicity resource bank from Teaching Tolerance

8. An important perspective on a book about White Fragility

9. The Radical Truth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Teaching Tolerance)

10. Essential Reads on the Roots of Racism (PBS)

11. Black Lives Matter (BlackLivesMatter.com)

12. 20 Actions White people & non-Black POCs in Corporate (and otherwise) can take to show up for Black People right now

 

Have an article, video, or resource you’d love to see featured? Reach out! Or Submit A Lesson you’ve designed!

 

Learning is better together (even if it’s over the phone or a video call these days). If you ever want to chat or keep learning more, you know where to find us (hint: bottom right corner of your screen).