The question, posed by teacher Dana Kelly, was simultaneously simple and complex.

“How can you let your light shine?” she asked, prompting group discussion.

The students turned toward each other and contemplated responses. Timidly, hands crept into the air and then, one-by-one, they spouted the answers a simple, yet complex, inquiry deserved. Help the neighbor, be nice to a classmate, visit the sick, listen to parents.

At this point of the school year, Kelly’s first-grade class at Cunningham Creek Elementary is deeply involved in the “inferring” phase of learning.

Encouraging students to reflect on the hidden meaning of ­actions and words is part of her breakdown on empathy.

As she read them a book titled “This Little Light of Mine,” Kelly challenged her pupils to study the pictures and body language of the character. She asked them to translate the meaning of “light,” which in this case, wasn’t the kind of light that cast shadows. The meaning was deeper.

“Empathy, to me, is a life skill,” Kelly said. “They can’t change the world without it.”

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