Empathy School: their teaching philosophy (UX design project)

Original Story from: natewashere.com/blog

Empathy School Ubud is a nature school that offers emotionally-intelligent, hands-on education for children ages 2–11(and their parents). Empathy School International was developed at Harvard, follows the latest research in holistic and evidence-based education. We believe that through exposure to nature, individualized focus, and a strong foundation in social-emotional learning…”
- School Founder/ Eric P. Gonzalez

I am proud to be on the school’s board of advisory as of September 2021 and to work with them on their branding and their online presence. First off, I am proud of them for challenging the status quo and questioning the traditional way of educating youths.

As a school, they were founded in the midst of the pandemic while many schools in Bali had to shut down or were severely limited in their resources. Empathy school was founded with an intention that it would be a different kind of school and serving different kind of market needs. They teach their students based on the principle of non-violent communication (NVC) and empathy. Their students have to learn applied empathy and communication as part of their curriculum along with language and critical thinking.

Their philosophy is based on 7 tenets of education; which was written by the founder himself (a Harvard Graduate).
“Our vision is to nurture and guide our learners to be the future leaders with sustainable education”- Eric P. Gonzalez.
They place their emphasis on three areas: education, community, and nature. With the latter being the most obvious. The school is located in a 20 hectare of nature surrounded by farm lands , forests and creeks; they have more than enough space for their students to roam around and learn as much as they can from nature. Their student’s daily activities include exercise, empathy class, building robots, and learn how to grow food sustainably. It’s a combination of critical thinking school of thoughts and creativity process. The students are encouraged to try new things even if they might fail. Failure is seen as a badge of honors at this school.

In the beginning, I found myself being intrigue by their philosophy and their motto. I also have a strong impression about their community to the point that some might think of them as a cult; however, one thing is important to distinguished. They encourage their students and parents to question everything and anything. It’s like a grassroots school where parents and teachers have to learn as much as students in order to grow and become better people in the society.

The school asked me to help them with a rebranding their online presence for grant applications and prospective investors. Their current objective is to expand their micro-school model where the teach-student ratio is good and sustainable. In the past few months, the school principle and everyone else involved worked on writing the school philosophy in which they called ‘The 7 tenets’. Its supposed to represent their core values in educating their kids and which would remain their north star once they start reaching out to other students.

Seven Education Tenets
‍Brand Attributes & Mission Statement:

• Evidence-Based Education
• Social-Emotional Learning
• Utilize nature, our best teacher
• Family and Community
• Learning never stops
• Leadership can be taught
• Experiential learning

Design a website based on their 7 tenets
By making the 7 education tenets an essential part of their website, teachers, parents, and investors alike can understand about the school’s philosophy: the how, the what, and the why. These are like their mission statement going forward and it would play an important role once they start to expand to other community and other country.

Evidence-Based Education

Traditional Education systems are not based on the science of learning, they are instead designed from long system traditions that are known to be ineffective at fully developing strong minds.

Social-Emotional Learning

Social-Emotional Learning is the very core of what it is to be human and benefits education greatly. The skills developed in Social-Emotional Learning allow us to interact with our fellow humans in a more enjoyable way, to give empathy to ours, to fully receive empathy from others and most importantly to give ourselves empathy. It is these skills that allow us as adults, and our children to become our true authentic selves. When students have these skills at an earlier age their academic outcomes improve drastically.

Utilize nature, our best teacher

Nature is abundant, beautiful and teaches the most important skill in life — adaptability. Being in nature will allow our whole tribe — staff, teachers, parents, and children to constantly be exposed to new ideas as well as to learn to adapt to changes in weather, environments and the flora and fauna. Moreover, it calms us down (lower cortisol levels). (We acquire skills to adapt and be agile with changes. We learn to preserve and nurture Mother Nature to thrive in sustainable land for the future

Family and Community

No one person or one group can fully educate any mind, the only way to ensure students can truly comprehend how diverse thought can be is to meet and learn about the world from a multitude of minds, thus a robust community is essential for a strong education. Moreover, the most important thing in a child’s life is their parents/guardians. If we support parent-child connection, we will help create stronger family bonds and wiser kids.

Learning never stops

At all points inhuman life, curiosity, or the desire to learn, is there. We must provide parent education programs that support the lifelong learner in all of us.

Experiential learning

There are best ways to learn. Some methods of teaching are better than others (at least for most people). Learning happens quickest through experiential learning, where kids focus not only on the abstract, but manipulate and develop the real world and when that the focus is on the individual, not only the group.

Leadership can be taught

It is from learning empathy, agreement building and social skills early on that our children develop the leadership skills they will need to change the world.

Information Architecture (IA)
By prioritizing their mission statement (the 7 tenets) as an important content section on their new website, I need to create an IA structure that give ease to new visitors (people reading this information for the first time) and also administrative advisors and potential investors.

The information should be in a bite size that can be expanded to include examples of each tenet being applied in practical classroom settings. These tenets are also based on many of the studies/research that would be cited along different pages to give a more credibility, thus it is important to have those links in the footnote or in the content itself.

Information Architecture (IA)
Notice that the information structure is revolved around the 7 tenets which are branched out into smaller examples. On the main page, only 4 items on the menu which helps reduced the clutter and their main page’s call-to-action is to guide the viewer into the 7 tenets; therefore there will be internal link on every page that get viewer to their philosophy page.

The album/gallery is used to display photos/videos of classrooms and activities that follow these very teaching methods. There will one album for each of the 7 tenets and there will also be internal links that take them to related tenets.

Next Step
My next step in the process is to prepare some wireframes for each of these pages to layout the page structure. The focus is on the ease of navigation and displaying contents that make sense and related on each page.

Thank you and please check back for more…

Thank you for following my process thus far. I will be working closely with them as they present their white-paper to their prospect investors in the impact sector. I believe in their philosophy and what they’re working towards. I think It’s important for designers to design good products that make changes for the better.

Hi, my name is Nate. I’m a product designer and entrepreneur. I’m all about conceptualizing and crafting digital products that make meaningful changes.