Inspiring empathy at marine summer camp

Research shows that encouraging and developing empathy for animals in children is an important motivator toward action on the animals’ behalf. The Aquarium has embraced empathy for animals as a key motivator for our mission: Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment. Through grant-funded initiatives, we’ve laid the groundwork for best practices, enhanced visitor programming and promoted industry interest in principles for empathy for animals.

In one particularly charming example of how this work is reflected, in July we hosted a marine summer camp for 6–7 year-olds, called “Who in the sea is just like me?”. Each day focused on different mammalian traits, characteristics and behaviors, which were explored through crafts, activities, going behind the scenes, exploring the Aquarium and attending Aquarium presentations. The camp culminated with a special look into how we care for marine mammals.

Campers in a busy classroom


Campers were especially excited to get their own otter “stuffies” and build it a home—an activity that develops empathy by exploring the question of what does an otter need to survive and thrive? One camper’s otter home featured “solar panels and a refrigerator”—another included ample use of the color green which, the camper explained, represented, “kelp so she doesn’t float away and she can be happy.”


A camper shows her shoebox sea otter home


Visit our website to learn more about our empathy work. And check back soon for details about event celebrating a new empathy-themed children’s book, Catastrophe by the Sea, developed in collaboration with the Seattle Aquarium, and available at our gift shop and elsewhere this fall.

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