Published: Sept. 17, 2020

Large group of students in meeting room for the Empathy Expo. Tactile panel showing four seasons - winter spring summer and fall  Box with tactile scene with handcrafted bird, tree, flowers, and grass

In Glen Ellyn, Illinois, the local library partnered with several schools and nearby organizations in a project culminating in an immersive exhibit called The Empathy Expo. Christina Keasler of the Glen Ellyn Public Library and John Bower of Ben Franklin Elementary attended the Build a Better Book workshop in Boulder, Colorado and became inspired. When they returned, they recruited teachers within the village's two school districts, as well as Phillip J Rock Center for the Deaf and Blind, C.A.S.E (Cooperative Association for Special Education) in DuPage County, and SCARCE (School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education). 

Using materials gathered from SCARCE, participating students were given the opportunity to create a better book, game, or piece of art that can be experienced without the help of sight. After weeks of collaborating with peers and evaluation from experts, projects were submitted to the library's Empathy Expo. The expo was an immersive experience, hosted in a dimly lit room that prompted participants to rely on senses other than sight. Blindfolds were provided to enhance the experience if desired. The three day event attracted 300 attendees and local news coverage. Projects were donated to Phillip J. Rock Center and C.A.S.E. for practical use after the expo.