“My favourite moment was when you held my finger.”
“Dear Baby Andie, my wish for you when you are in Grade 3, is that you will have a Roots of Empathy baby just like you.”
But by June – what a change in our baby – sitting up, crawling, making eye contact, holding fingers, interacting with vocalizations, smiling, laughing, eating a wide variety of foods! The students and even Mom Alicia were amazed as they watched the slide show of photos from October to May. How much change occurs in a human during the first year of life!
Roots of Empathy was developed by Newfoundland educator, Mary Gordon. It has spread internationally, and is widely acclaimed.
“Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children while raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy.”
Roots of Empathy’s goals are:
· To foster the development of empathy
· To develop emotional literacy
· To reduce levels of bullying, aggression and violence, and promote children's pro-social behaviours
· To increase knowledge of human development, learning, and infant safety
· To prepare students for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting
Anglo East School District began Roots of Empathy in seven Grade 3 classrooms in the 2008-2009 school year. A facilitator must be trained by the national organization, and each program is supplied with curriculum materials, a special library and “props” – baby toys, a green blanket, a roll, and special T-shirts for babies that say “Roots of Empathy Teacher.”
Riverside Consolidated School has participated since the beginning, with a break from 2011-13. Five sweet baby girls have served as the Roots of Empathy “teacher” – showing the students how much babies learn in their first year. The facilitator is Barb Gebuhr, and the classroom teacher is Scott Tingley, providing continuity for the program.
The students soon adopt this baby as their own, and would never imagine harming her in any way; they empathize with her feelings, and transfer that empathy to their peer group, when reminded. They learn about normal infant development, and what is essential both prenatally, and during the first year, to ensure healthy and happy babies. A key message is “Never Shake a Baby” and students brainstorm ways that tired parents can deal with the frustration of a crying baby, rather than resort to shaking, which can cause brain damage, and even death. Students are very serious in absorbing these essential learnings, and plan to be great parents when the time comes!
For more information on the program, visit www.rootsofempathy.org
Submitted by Barb Gebuhr, Facilitator of Roots of Empathy program at Riverside Consolidated School.