Roots of Empathy

One morning in October, you could have heard a pin drop in Senior Kindergarten as eighteen girls watched wide-eyed as baby James and his mom entered the room. Four-month-old James was immediately entranced by the girls seated in a circle on the green blanket. 

Ms. Hawley, the Registered Early Childhood Educator Supervisor for our new Pre-kindergarten programme is also a trained Roots of Empathy Instructor, enabling us to bring this exciting programme to our school. Ms. Hawley coaches the children in observing and reading the cues the baby gives as to how the baby is feeling: “Is the baby happy or sad?” “How can you tell?”  This discussion is used as a lever for the children to talk about their own emotions and to understand how their classmates feel: “Do you smile when you're happy?” “How can you tell if your friend is happy?” Being able to understand how other people are feeling is called empathy. One of the first cues we received from the baby was that he did not want to put on the cute Roots of Empathy t-shirt!

The Roots of Empathy programme fits well into a Primary Years Programme School as it develops a key learner profile attribute. The aim of all International Baccalaureate (IB) programme is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.  One of the key tools for achieving this goal is through the learner profile. The IB’s definition of caring is showing empathy, compassion, respect and a commitment to service, and acting to make a positive difference in the lives of others and the world around us.

For more than twenty years, across Canada and internationally, nearly 1,000,000 children have learned to respect and care for one another with the lessons started through their Roots of Empathy baby. The founder, Mary Gordon, was a recipient of a  Governor General’s Innovation Award in 2018 and the programme has been globally recognized as one of the best educational programs for raising levels of student empathy and developing emotional literacy. The Roots of Empathy Instructor visits the classroom before and after each Family Visit to prepare the students and reinforce teachings using a specialized lesson plan for each visit. It teaches children about feelings, their own feelings and the feelings of others. Once every three weeks, baby James and his parent(s) visit the classroom. 

The children predict and cheer when their Roots of Empathy baby reaches the 'developmental milestones' of the first year: “He can roll over!” “He got his first tooth!” “He can sit up!” “He can crawl!!”  We are looking forward to baby James’ next visit. Senior Kindergarten will watch the baby grow throughout the year. We can’t wait to see how they grow too!

For more information on the Roots of Empathy Program, feel free to email Ms. Hawley