Evidence That It Works
The authors of this practice mention in the introduction that reverence is “to be in awe of life.” The astronauts, too, mentioned feeling “awestruck by the beauty of the Earth.”
Awe is the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world, like looking up at millions of stars in the night sky or marveling at the birth of a child. When people feel awe, they may use other words to describe the experience, such as wonder, amazement, surprise, or transcendence.
Scientists have found that awe has an amazing capacity to make us feel more connected to other people and humanity. In one study, participants spent time near an awe-inducing Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton or in a regular hallway. When asked to describe themselves, the dinosaur viewers were more likely to use universal descriptors (such as “a person” or “an inhabitant of the Earth”) rather than more specific descriptors (such as “tall,” “friendly,” or “a student”) than the other people, suggesting that awe increases our sense that we are part of a greater whole.
Why Does It Matter?
According to researchers, empathy—a critical quality that helps humans feel connected and compassionate towards one another—may be on the decline in students.
Reminding students of their common humanity, whether through an awe-inducing experience or just a gentle reminder like the Earthrise photograph, can help to foster positive school relationships, cultivating classroom and school climates where all students feel safe and that they belong. And students who grow up with this sense of connectedness eventually become adults who may contribute to creating a more connected world.