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ISN Partner: The Nora Project

The Nora Project‘s mission is to teach empathy by sparking friendships between students and their peers with disabilities.

Why it Matters

  • Creating supportive communities for people with disabilities (now and for the future) starts with teaching today’s generation empathy—a practice that will benefit them in all aspects of their lives.
  • Without the opportunity to learn about and interact with their peers with disabilities, typically-developing students may develop misconceptions about or apathy toward them.
  • And, we’re in the midst of an “empathy crisis”—empathy in teens has decreased by 40% over the last 30 years, leading to an increase in bullying, cheating, narcissism, and feelings of isolation.
  • The Nora Project brings students and their peers with disabilities together to teach that disability is a natural part of the human condition, and that despite our differences, we can find what we have in common by sharing our stories.
  • We hope to inspire a generation that sees the value and humanity of people of all abilities, and practices empathy in all its relationships and endeavors.

How it Works

  • Our flagship program is a year-long school project, pairing elementary-school children with children with disabilities—their Nora Friends.
  • Students spend time with their Nora Friends over the course of the year, learning about them, sharing stories, playing together, and becoming friends.
  • At the end of the year, the students create mini-documentaries that showcase their experiences and share their Nora Friends’ stories.
  • The goal is to teach the students how to build relationships with people who are different than them, and to allow children with disabilities to be truly seen and included by their peers.

Making a Difference: The Nora Project Joins Students with Disabled Peers


The program is laid out over the four quarters of a school year and delivered in general education classrooms in Grades 2-12.

  • In the first phase of the project, students learn about empathy, the mission of TNP, and begin to answer the three essential questions- What does it mean to be a good friend?  What does it mean to be “normal?” and Why do we share our stories with others?
  • In the second phase, students learn about best practices for inclusion so that they can be welcoming, respectful hosts to their Nora Friends when they visit their classrooms for the first time.  Students and their Nora Friends exchange greeting video introductions, then meet one another for their first Activity Day visits.
  • In Phase 3, students focus on storytelling.  They learn about the components of documentaries and the importance of storytelling while reflecting on the kind of stories they would want to be told about themselves.  They learn more about their Nora Friends by conducting interviews with their parents, caregivers, doctors, and friends.
  • This footage, together with images, videos, and memories from their Activity Day visits throughout the year, are put together in Phase 4 when students create documentaries.  These documentaries share the story of the friendships students created throughout the year and share their answers to the three essential questions.  All of the documentaries are screened for the community at a special celebration of friendship, the Nora Night Film Festival.
  • To see some examples of these documentaries, you can visit the See Our Friendships section of our website.