Why did strangers help retrieve Nico's stuffed animal?

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As the pandemic wears on, I’ve been in need of more feel-good stories. Here’s one to add to your coverage of helping behavior in the social psych chapter.

Four-year-old Nico was out walking along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal with his mom, his two-year-old brother Santiago and his six-year-old brother Sebastian. Unfortunately, Santiago tossed Nico’s stuffed animal over the railing and onto the frozen canal. Unable to retrieve it, all they could do was revisit it every day, watching as each snowfall buried it deeper. Sebastian, being the community-minded six-year-old that he is, implored his mom to use social media to see if anyone could help. Mom was skeptical, but she took Sebastian’s advice and posted to Twitter.

The article author writes, “As hard as it was to believe, a mission to rescue Rudolph was quickly mounted.” I’m not sure why this was hard to believe. At this point in the article, I was ready to board a plane to Ottawa and retrieve the stuffed animal myself. Here’s this little boy who cares enough about this stuffed animal to take it with him on walks, his brother tosses it out of reach, and now all he can do is see it from the railing. Every day. And wait for spring when the ice melts and his stuffed animal floats away. As you might guess, I wasn’t the only one feeling for Nico.

Members of the National Capital Commission Skateway team—the group that makes sure the Rideau Canal has skate-able ice in the winter—found the stuffed animal, thawed it out, tidied it up, and returned it to Nico.

Group discussion

Read “Little boy’s stuffed Bambi was rescued from frozen canal—they didn’t think people would care.” In your groups, review the list of factors that are associated with helping behavior from the social psychology chapter and from lecture. For each factor, identify whether it was present, absent, or unknown.  For each factor that was present, provide evidence from the article.

After discussion, bring students back together. Ask each group to report, in turn, one helping factor they identified from the article—a factor that has not been already been identified by an earlier group.

As a follow-up assignment/asynchronous discussion, ask students to find another story where a stranger provided help, and, from the article, identify whether the helping factors covered in your textbook and/or lecture were present, absent, or unknown. Again, for each factor that was present, provide evidence from the article.

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.