Building Empathy and Community in Middle and High School

(Grades 6-12) / Flex Course

PDI Course Number: 142T02 / UCSD Course Number: EDUC42445


Course Description

Are you looking for practical strategies to build and foster empathy and community within your middle or high school classroom and/or school? As a teacher, you likely already know that the two values of empathy and community feed into each other and often promote even stronger, more connected school systems. Yet, at the same time, you also know the challenges that many students, teachers, and administrators face when trying to implement these best practices. This online course is designed to provide teachers in grades 6-12 with the necessary tools to build and maintain an environment in which all participants feel respected, celebrated, and valued. Here, teachers will learn how to create a safe, empathetic space to meet the holistic needs of their diverse learners using best social-emotional learning practices, including such things as check-ins and restorative circles. Teachers will also learn how to help their students identify and regulate their emotions so that student choice, agency, and curiosity are cultivated and nourished in a safe classroom environment. Teachers will also learn how to institute common goals using a solid mission/vision statement so that empathetic connections can be promoted within and among school teams as well as the larger community. By the end of this course, teachers will feel more confident and successful in their quest to transform their classrooms and schools into an empathetic community filled with grace and compassion. This course is worth 3 ⅓ semester units/5 quarter units (50 hours of training) from University of California San Diego (UCSD) Division of Extended Studies. For detailed information on university credit, click here.

"The content of this course is so essential. So many students, especially after COVID, lack empathy and social understanding. We need to increase kindness and instill a sense of community." - Dawn Moore


Enrollment Options

Course Only

$127 with the discount

Course with Credit from UCSD

$323 with the discount

This course is worth 3 ⅓ semester units or 5 quarter units of graduate-level credit from UCSD.

You have up to one year from the date you are enrolled to complete a flex course.


Click here to view the course syllabus.

Print our customized course approval form to share with your school district.

UCSD Course Number: EDUC42445
Unit One
  • The Importance of Empathy
  • The Importance of Community for Educators and Students
  • The Connection between Empathy and Community
  • Assignment #1: Write an autobiography
  • Test #1
Unit Two
  • Creating Space for Empathy
  • The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Unlearning Old Patterns
  • Assignment #2: Article reflection
  • Test #2
Unit Three
  • The Importance of Safety
  • Creating a Safe Classroom
  • Cultivating Curiosity and Celebrations
  • Assignment #3: Share your expertise
  • Test #3
Unit Four
  • Challenges to Cultivating Empathy in Students
  • Classroom Activities to Cultivate Empathy
  • SEL Activities to Cultivate Empathy in Students
  • Test #4
Unit Five
  • Challenges to Cultivating Empathy in Colleagues
  • Promoting Adult Mental Health and Well-Being
  • Activities to Promote Empathy Within and Among School Teams
  • Test #5
Unit Six
  • Classroom Community-Building Ideas
  • Whole School Community-Building Ideas
  • It Takes a Village
  • Assignment #4: Design an empathy and community lesson plan
  • Assignment #5: Course Reflection

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