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Can An App Help Teach Empathy and Mindfulness?


Visiting Researcher Anna Ly is creating an app that uses breath and storytelling to teach empathy and mindfulness to young kids.

Today, educators are using mindfulness meditation techniques in schools to get kids to slow down, focus on their own breathing, and be present in the moment. This technique was popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Buddhist and a professor of medicine emeritus who’s work found that such practices can help reduce stress.

The core idea for Ly’s app is based on a Chinese parable about empathy and mindfulness. In the parable, an ox herder becomes frustrated because his oxen aren’t cooperating with his directions. But as he calms down, so do the ox. Eventually he sees that he’s an ox, too.

In the app, which is still in development, young users will progress through scenes by breathing into the iPad’s microphone and following certain breath patterns. In the first scene, following the breath pattern might just make the ox come out of hiding. But as the scenes progress and music changes, the character comes closer and becomes friends with the user as long as he or she keeps breathing calmly. But if you breathe too hard or yell? The ox will run away.

Click here to read more about Anna's App.

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