Evidence That It Works
Watching animals has been found to elicit feelings of awe and connectedness. In a study of more than 400 adult visitors to the Dalton Highway in northern Alaska, half of the special experiences that participants described involved being near animals, watching natural behavior, or seeing young animals, which in turn induced feelings of awe. In addition, a study that gathered narrative stories of five women and one man revealed how their encounters with whales and dolphins invoked peak experiences that involved feelings of connectedness and harmony.
Finally, a study of a diverse group of more than 2,000 college students and adults based in the United States, found that the experience of awe led to a diminished sense of self and personal concerns, as well as increased prosocial behavior. Researchers in the study highlighted that this can in turn help people feel a sense of belonging to a wider community, as well as enhance caring for others beyond themselves.
Why Does it Matter?
Awe helps build kinder classrooms and schools. In a world mostly guided by materialism and individual concerns, students are bombarded with values that put “me” first and “others” second. Awe has the power to shift these values, making students less entitled and more oriented towards helping others.
Indeed, by fostering a sense of connection between students, awe creates classrooms of belonging and inclusivity. Even a brief moment of awe encourages children to share more and act altruistically towards others. Awe also fosters students’ collective concern towards our larger society by inspiring them to tackle big issues like climate change, and by encouraging them to find common ground with people with whom they disagree.