Empathy & Compassion

I. Opal Charter School: Vanport Flood
II. Caregiver Resources: Exploring Empathy
III. Organizations to Support: Doing the Work

“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” —Maya Angelou  

Opal Charter School Curriculum

In the third grade classroom of Opal Charter School, known as Sitka, children investigate the story of the Vanport Flood by seeing, thinking, and wondering about photos of the flood. 

Through the lesson, they begin to understand that other people experience similar feelings, even in very different contexts with very different consequences. This empowers children to address prejudices and better understand the history and effects of choices made from individuals in Oregon's past.

After studying other hidden stories of Portland, Sitka students created a web of their schema around Vanport. 

They wrote letters in which they imagined they were Vanport residents two days after the flood.

Reflections From an Opal Charter Parent:
"My daughter's class studied the Vanport flood and the changes to the Albina neighborhood...a thriving Black neighborhood that had I-5 run through it and several acres of homes razed to put in the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. Interestingly, it's where our familly lives, so we learned about our own role as white gentrifiers, which was disturbing and important.

Some third grade classes around the city study Portland's bridges, but Opal School approaches local history quite differently. My daughter explored Chinese exclusion laws, the Vanport floods, and the displacement of a thriving Black neighborhood in what was known as neighborhood, my daughter's neighborhood. 

"Not only was this study hyper-local but it was hyper-personal."

Not comfortable content for a third grader and her family and not easy content to parse out and digest, but incredibly important content for residents of a city with a complicated racial past and present."


Questions for Curious Caregivers:
•  What other hidden stories from Black history can your family
•  How does making history personal change your feelings about the lesson?
•  What role does imagination play in history?
•  How does having empathy change your perspective?
• What can you learn from seeing, thinking, and wondering? 

•  Zero to Three: How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy
•  Learning for Justice: Empathy for the 'A'Build empathy through play.
•  Greater Good Science Center: Can Empathy Reduce Racism?
•  PDX Race Talks: A Conversation Series: Compassion & education.
•  Fatherly: A Parent's Guide to Talking about Racial Bias

“Play helps us get a better understanding of other people.”
—Lucius, Age 10

During Black History Month, and always, the Museum supports the work of our community partners and peer organizations. 

With open hearts and minds, we continue to elevate Black voices and learn from these nonprofits as we all work towards an equitable world. (Photos taken at Portland Children's Museum events.)

Black Parent Initiative: The only culturally specific organization in Portland focused solely on supporting low/moderate income parents as a vehicle for enhancing the lives of Black youth.

Black United Fund of Oregon: Assists in the social and economic development of Oregon's underserved communities and to contributes to a broader understanding of ethnic and culturally diverse groups.

Don't Shoot Portland: A Black-led human rights nonprofit that advocates for accountability and has implemented art, education and civic participation within our programming to create social change.

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” —Coretta Scott King

Friends of the Children: Impacting generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors—12+ years, no matter what.

KairosPDX: An education-focused non-profit attacking Portland's persistent achievement gap through innovative pedagogy, community collaboration, and family partnership.

KSMoCA—King School Museum of Contemporary Art: A social practice project inside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School, KSMoCA connects public school students with internationally renowned contemporary artists through collaborative workshops, exhibitions, artists lectures, and site-specific commissions. 

Oregon Historical Society: Dedicated to making Oregon’s long, rich history visible and accessible to all.

Partners in Diversity: To create a competitive advantage for the region by attracting, retaining and developing diversity influencers and professionals of color.  

"Our human compassion binds us the one to the other—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future." —Nelson Mandela