Building empathy

Teams of ALMA students – with earplugs, masks and walkers – learned what it is like to have a disability.



Students in health sciences teacher Erika Miller’s class walk down the steps in C-wing on Feb. 9.


Limping, bumping into walls and frustration. These are all things you may have seen on campus on Feb. 8 and 9 when students – wearing eye masks, earplugs and using walkers – were participating in a disabilities scavenger hunt.

For the past 10 years, health sciences teacher Erika Miller has done this activity as a way for students to experience having a disability firsthand and to build trust with fellow classmates. Students received a mock disability and worked in teams to complete the scavenger hunt. If you walked through the campus on those two days, you would have found students helping each other through their disabilities and to overcome the difficulty of the tasks.

“I think it’s really to develop skills of empathy and have people have to work together and rely on each other to complete the tasks,” said Miller, the lead teacher for the Athletic Lifestyle and Management Academy (ALMA).

Miller said the project gives the students a perspective and teaches them teamwork. She created the scavenger hunt to give students something fun and get them out and about.

Two ALMA students – freshmen Neveah Drake and Hunter Harris – participated in the project.

“I liked that we got to work together with the team,” Drake said. “The best part was going around the school, asking people questions.”

The activity also ignited ideas in the students’ minds.

“It was interesting how the blind people didn’t have sticks to walk around with,” Harris said.

Though the project was a learning opportunity for ALMA students, there were challenges.

“It was hard for the blind person to direct because she was bumping into walls,” Drake said.

Both students said that they would be open to doing the scavenger hunt again.

“It was a good experience,” Harris said.