Roots of Empathy
Roots of Empathy
is a classroom program that aims to reduce aggression and raise social and emotional awareness by increasing empathy. Classes are paired with a young (2-4 months baby) “teacher” and guided through a series of observation and exercises by a Roots facilitator and the “teacher’s” mother. Students are able to watch the infant grow and change and identify different emotions displayed by the baby. As they come to recognize the baby’s emotions they are able to understand the cause and effect nature of one’s actions with another’s emotions. The interaction between mother and infant is also an opportunity for students to witness an “ideal example” of empathy.
Roots of Empathy has been identified as an anti-bullying program. Because children are taught to understand how others feel and are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and inactions, pro-social behaviours rise and incidents of bullying and aggression fall.
Empathy is the ability to identify with another person's feelings. The ability to see and feel things as others see and feel them is central to competent parenting and successful social relationships in all stages of life.
In the Roots of Empathy classroom respect encompasses appreciation of the uniqueness of each individual, their opinions, beliefs and contributions, the importance of voice, the role of place and a respectful sense of our environment as a gift for our shared use.
Power of Parenting
At all income levels, parenting has a powerful impact on children's learning and behaviour, on who they become. Roots of Empathy teaches the crucial role of parenting for optimal early childhood development leading to healthy human development. The children of today are the parents and citizens of tomorrow.
The Roots of Empathy classroom is a participatory democracy where all children are encouraged to contribute and ask questions. Activities are designed to help children work on consensus building and collaboration. They gain experience working in small groups that are not determined by their level of reading or their math skills; these new groupings allow children to reinvent themselves. Reticent children who normally don't speak in class become fearless contributors. There are no wrong answers in a Roots of Empathy classroom. Instructors are trained to thank children for their contributions rather than praising them. This principle of intrinsic motivation creates a tone that is friendly, participatory and levels of social trust rise.
Roots of Empathy celebrates diversity. Enlarging our perspective brings learning to everyone; this perspective includes other races, religions, languages, cultures and people who are different in their lifestyles, economic levels, political beliefs, parenting styles, family configurations, abilities and disabilities.
The Roots of Empathy program creates awareness of risk factors to babies and has a strong focus on abuse prevention. Children are never too young to learn about Shaken Baby Syndrome, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the dangers of second-hand smoke.