The Nora Project’s flagship program is a yearlong elementary-school curriculum that pairs children with disabilities with students in participating classrooms. They get to know each other. It’s educational, sure—but what it’s really teaching is empathy. Here, a conversation with Executive Director Lauren Schrero Levy, whose daughter inspired the nonprofit.
How does The Nora Project work?
It starts right when school begins and ends at the end of the year; our teachers spend about an hour a week on the curriculum. In the first phase of the project, students study empathy. In the second phase, meet their new friends with disabilities. And then in the third phase of the project, students focus on storytelling—understanding their own stories and understanding what it means to learn another person’s story. The final phase is the project: students create documentaries and host a red carpet film festival at their schools to showcase the lessons they’ve learned over the course of the year.
And you really are a new organization, right?
We got our nonprofit status in January of 2017. We started out in four schools, three of them local and one in Atlanta. We sort of grew, by word of mouth, to eight schools the following year—this year we’re in 32 schools.
That’s a sharp upward slope.
It is, and we have a waiting list. The amount of interest in the program is significant and exciting.
Is part of the fundraising to get cameras to make the films?
The cost for us to enter a classroom is about $5,000, and there are various items that go into that number. We provide all of our classrooms with iPads, microphones and tripods and all the things they need to capture footage throughout the school year to create their documentaries. Plus, our teachers get activity-day stipends so they can purchase things to make their Nora Project really special. They can buy adaptive scissors or cool parachutes or anything they think will help facilitate fun and inclusion in their classroom.
Yeah, our kids love playing with parachutes.
Kids with disabilities can engage with that?
Yes. Kids with disabilities can engage in almost any activity, with adaptations.