A Web of Empathy

Creating compassion and understanding

Parents and students often ask, “Why are you named SpiderSmart? What does a spider or a web have to do with learning?”

Our core Reading & Writing program is based on teaching children’s literature, and one of the most enduring, captivating, and beloved books that has influenced so many young lives is the award-winning Charlotte’s Web.

One reason Charlotte’s Web continues to be loved by readers of all ages is the unlikely friendships that form out of empathy, and at SpiderSmart we value teaching, discussing, and demonstrating empathy for our students.

Fern shows empathy to Wilbur, a runt pig her father says will be killed. With great care, Fern nurses the weak Wilbur into better health, but then her father declares the pig must be sold. However, Fern asks her aunt and uncle who own a larger farm, to take Wilbur, so she may often visit her favorite pig. This is the first example of a friendship forming out of empathy, and the result is protecting Wilbur’s life from immediate threat.

Wilbur is still in danger, however, because a goose tells him we will be turned into a ham for Christmas dinner. Feeling helpless, Wilbur is sad again until he hears a tiny voice tell him he has a friend. This voice belongs to Charlotte, a spider that lives in the barn. Eventually, a plan is formed, and with some help from other animal characters, Charlotte begins to spin webs into words such as TERRIFIC, SOME PIG, and RADIANT. Everyone is astounded and the farm receives a lot of attention from newspapers. Now Wilbur is too precious to turn into bacon and ham, so Charlotte has saved his life!

Fern did not need to pay attention or put effort into saving a runt piglet. Charlotte did not have to ever talk to Wilbur or be involved with the farm animals. Fern and Charlotte save Wilbur’s life with their selfless actions, and their bonds with Wilbur are created by empathy.

If you know the story, you will recall that Wilbur saves Charlotte’s egg sac and takes her unborn children to the barn, returning Charlotte’s selfless love, and further demonstrating how empathy creates more empathy, and becomes a positive force benefiting so many as it weaves throughout our world.

At SpiderSmart, we teach our students to strive to view others with empathy and become responsible citizens of a vast and challenging world.