Ellie the elephant teaches empathy

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 7:30am

Two dozen children from Boothbay Region YMCA’s FitKidz afterschool program and the Montessori class from the Y’s Child Enrichment Center got to meet Ellie, a 6-foot, 5-inch talking robotic elephant and her “trainers” on Tuesday, Feb. 20 during school vacation.

Ellie speaks to students and shares her story, taking them through her painful separation from her mother as an infant, discussing the intimidation and physical punishment she endured at the hands of her circus handlers, and finally detailing her happy life at a sanctuary after her rescue, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) website.

Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra, star of the ABC TV show “Quantico,” has given voice to PETA’s Ellie, which is on tour across the US, Europe and India.

“Ellie’s presentation was provided by TeachKind, as an exercise in empathy for animals and to encourage children to relate the real Ellie’s story to their own experiences with bullying. It was a great lesson in treating people, and animals, the way you want to be treated,” said FitKidz advisor Amy Henderson.

FitKidz is the Y’s afterschool program that serves children from kindergarten through fifth grade across the district.

“We focus on youth development through mentorship, teaching responsibility, and encouraging healthy living. A lot of our curriculum is accomplished through physical activity. We utilize the Y facilities as well as our abundant local community resources, such as our waterfronts and the land trust properties,” said Henderson.

“We also invited our Montessori class from the Child Enrichment Center to the presentation, as these children are at a stage of development where they are beginning to develop empathy. In the Montessori educational model, emotional intelligence is an area of major focus.”