La Crosse School District classes begin today and with the new year, 6,000 students will participate in an art project that looks to get kids thinking about compassion.
The concept behind The Compassion Project is simple. Every elementary school student and many middle and high school students will draw, paint, or create a collage interpreting or depicting compassion. In the spring, those 6,000 works of art will be displayed in a downtown art gallery.
La Crosse Public Education Foundation executive director Tim Riley says the project could get students thinking twice about how they treat one another. "That act of thinking about compassion - slowing down, in this world that seems to be whizzing by with all this social media and television programs and so forth - to pause and reflect on what it is to be kind to one another and alleviate suffering in this world is a good exercise."
Riley helped start The Compassion Project in Appleton a few years ago. He was inspired by a UW-Madison neuroscientist, whose research found that people who think or act compassionately have healthier brains.
La Crosse School District Superintendent Randy Nelson says he wants the project to extend beyond the classroom walls and hopes families will talk more about compassion. "Let's be aware of one another and how we treat each other," he said. "Let's make sure we know someone ... let's walk a mile in their shoes before we know those things. It's really about something that transcends this [art] piece."
Nelson says he hopes The Compassion Project will continue beyond this year within the school district and the community.