Students recall and describe a time when they experienced awe.

Objectives

  1. Cognitive: Students will gain a better understanding of awe and then recall and describe a time when they experienced awe.
  2. Affective: Students will experience a sense of happiness and a decreased focus on everyday concerns.

Materials

Journal or computer, Pens/Pencils

Exercises

Time Activity Notes
2 min Explain awe as an emotion that we feel during experiences that challenge and expand our typical way of seeing the world.

People may experience awe when looking at a beautiful natural landscape or work of art; when they see a moving speech, performance, or act of kindness; or when they have a spiritual or religious experience.

Explain that awe helps us to see beyond ourselves, to become less self-conscious, and to focus less on minor, everyday concerns. Research shows that feeling awe improves life satisfaction.

3 min Ask students to think back to their own experiences of awe–when they have witnessed something vast, overwhelming, or moving that may have altered the way they understood the world.
5 min Ask students to identify their most recent experience with awe and to describe that experience in writing, using as much detail as possible. Optional: Ask students to go through this activity daily for a week or every few days for a month and to record in a journal their awe reflections.
10 min Go around the room and ask students to share their Awe stories OR how the activity made them feel. (Pair share, small groups or whole class) Ask: What did you notice about how you felt before and after the activity? When might it be helpful to reflect on the times we have experienced awe?

Teacher Reflection

How did you feel after the activity? Did students participate and seem engaged? Remember to ask the students to share their feedback on the activity: What went well? What suggestions do they have for making the activity better? Think about what you might do differently next time.

Emotional Intelligence Tips

  • Acknowledge that it may be challenging for some students to think of an awe experience. You can offer other, more common examples such as being moved to awe such as:
    • Hearing a brilliant idea or a moving story
    • Seeing someone do something extraordinarily kind, unique, or special
    • Seeing something in nature for the first time– a breathtaking view of land or sky, animals interacting,
    • Seeing a small baby or child learning something new doing something special.
  • Suggest that if students repeatedly find themselves focusing on negative feelings, they can learn to refocus their mind on the positive events in their lives. This may be challenging at first but gets easier with practice.
This activity adapted from Greater Good in Action, a resource produced by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

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